History of a Cal State Fullerton Killer

Published: Monday, May 15, 2006
Updated: Monday, December 29, 2008

Though Edward Charles Allaway believes he is cured of the mental illness that led him to kill and that he should be placed in an outpatient program, Allaway said he has given up his quest for release and he will instead live out the rest of his days in the custody of the state.

The one-time Cal State Fullerton custodian was sentenced to life in a mental institution after he gunned down nine people, killing seven of them, with a .22-caliber rifle in what is now the Pollak library.

From a phone in his social worker’s office, he spoke calmly and deliberately, choosing his words with great care so as to fully describe his current living arrangements at Patton State Hospital in San Bernadino County.

“It sucks,” Allaway, now 67, said. “Patton is becoming more of an institution than a medical facility.”

The aging Allaway, who once joked to reporters about how great the food was at his hospital, is a little more somber now, expressing continued remorse for the pain his actions have caused. He understands why so many people harbor ill feelings toward him, he said, and why those people fight to keep him locked up for good.

“There’s nothing I can say anymore,” Allaway said. “It’s heavy on my shoulders, but I can’t keep hammering away at it over and over. It gets mentally frustrating.”

Since then, he’s been transported all over California from the maximum security facilities of Atascadero State Hospital to the minimal security facilities of Patton State Hospital where he currently resides.

Because he is a mental patient and not a prisoner, he is eligible to apply for release every year, Allaway said. Being released would mean Allaway would participate in an outpatient program and live in a halfway house.

Adversaries to his release say granting his placement in an outpatient program means granting his freedom.

“I am absolutely convinced Edward Charles Allaway is a danger to society,” Republican State Assemblyman Todd Spitzer said.

Spitzer became involved with the case in 2001 when it looked as if Allaway might be released. An Orange County Supervisor at the time, Spitzer advocated on behalf of the families of the victims, including Patricia Almazan the daughter of graphic artist Frank Teplansky who was shot three times that day.

Almazan said the defense attorneys tried to equate Allaway’s killing spree to an epileptic driver who experienced a seizure and accidentally drove onto a curb and ran over a large group of people.

Because his is he was found criminally insane, no one from the families of the victims may speak out against Allaway during his release hearings, Almazan said, which is upsetting.

Spitzer gave a voice to the voiceless, Almazan said. He used his political clout to make the public aware of the case and see to it that Allaway stay locked up.

The details surrounding Allaway’s checkered past and the circumstances that led to the shootings have muddied with time. It’s clear, however, that Allaway had a history of mental illness before he ever set foot on campus.

Former Los Angeles Times reporter Evan Maxwell covered law enforcement at the time of the shootings, which took place on July 12, 1976. He was assigned to fly back to Allaway’s hometown of Royal Oak, Mich. to interview Allaway’s parents, he said in a phone interview from his home in Sedona, Ariz.

“It was a sad and pathetic situation,” Maxwell said. “I could see the family was of such modest means, unsophisticated means.”

Maxwell visited Allaway’s parents at their apartment built just above a grocery store in a “not high-class” suburb of Detroit. He spent several hours talking with the family, but noticed they didn’t seem surprised about the shootings.

They didn’t doubt that Allaway could have done such a thing, Maxwell said, recalling the absolute devastation on Allaway’s mother’s face when she spoke about seeing her son in the courtroom on the day of his arraignment.

“This was a crime, but it was a crime involving a sad and flawed human being,” Maxwell said. “People couldn’t believe what was happening. That’s what made people uneasy.”

Allaway moved from Michigan to Southern California in early 1973, days before his first first wife, Carol, divorced him. In Michigan, Allaway experienced many of the same symptoms that would lead to the library shootings. He received shock therapy treatments during a month-long stay in a mental institution.

Later diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, Allaway became convinced that his wife was sleeping around and posing for pornographic pictures. She remarried within days of the divorce being finalized, the Orange County Register reported.

Allaway met his second wife, Bonnie, a few months after moving to Orange County. Shortly after, the couple embarked on a cross-country camping trip, looking for jobs wherever they could find them when their money ran out.

Eventually they returned to Orange County, and Allaway’s sister, Shirley Sabo, who was a secretary in the university’s sociology department at the time, landed Allaway a custodial job in the library.

At home though, Allaway’s life began to unravel. He accused Bonnie, too, of sleeping around with other men and appearing in pornographic films that employees at the library were producing.

Allaway came to Fullerton with a chip on his shoulder, other custodians in the library have said. Most the time he was a quiet man who kept to himself, but on occasion he would lash out against his co-workers.

“The money was good, the work wasn’t that hard, but there was just no way a white person could work there,” Allaway told the Register after three years of incarceration in a mental institution.

Some accused Allaway of being overtly racist. Black custodians complained that Allaway would become quite surly if they tried to show him a certain way to do something, the Register reported.

Allaway was also upset when the university hired a Mexican-American from the outside as lead custodian instead of hiring his friend, Donald Karges, who was among the seven victims killed that day.

During the criminal trial, Bonnie attested to Allaway’s prejudice behavior against blacks and Mexican-Americans. She also attested to Allaway’s jealous streak, which led him to threaten his wife with a penknife, saying he’d cut her face if she ever cheated on him.

Allaway and Bonnie divorced shortly after the shootings, and he hasn’t heard from her since, he said. He spends his days attending meetings and group therapy sessions at Patton, located about 50 miles from CSUF.

He said he’s made friends in custody, but it’s difficult because many of them are allowed to leave while Allaway must stay behind. It’s hard to say good-bye, he said.

The law grants mental patients certain rights, Allaway said, and those rights have not been granted to him because of the seriousness of his crime. He added, though, that when an individual is mentally ill as he was at the time of the shootings, it’s difficult to discern between reality and fantasy.

“There’s no reason and rhyme,” Allaway said. “Things don’t come out normal because they’re not.”

The day of the killings and in the months leading up to them, Allaway was in a different time zone, he said. He didn’t realize he was sick, and he didn’t seek the professional help he needed.

Though he contends the professional help he has received has cured him, Allaway’s release is unlikely because his mental history makes it impossible to predict if he’d relapse under the stressful conditions.

“It’s not about what he is today,” Assemblyman Spitzer said. “I’m concerned about the fact that he’s a mass murderer, and mass murderers have no business being back in society.”

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