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Jdl Supporter Arrested in Murder-for-profit Scheme

August 15, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The missing motive in the mail-bomb murder allegedly carried out by a Kiryat Arab couple has been supplied in the arrest here of a wealthy supporter of the Jewish Defense League.

William Ross, a 51-year-old real estate broker, has been accused by federal authorities in a murder-for-profit scheme over a bitter real estate dispute.

To carry out the scheme, Ross allegedly enlisted the help of two fellow JDL members, Robert Steven Manning and his wife, Rochelle.

The Mannings, who hold dual U.S. and Israeli citizenship, immigrated to Israel in 1973. Both of them are residents of Kiryat Arba, one of the most militant Jewish settlements on the West Bank.

Mrs. Manning, 48, was arrested in June at the Los Angeles airport as she arrived by plane from Israel with her two children. Robert Manning, 36, remains a fugitive in Israel and U.S. authorities say that they are seeking his extradition.

In the case now pending, political or ideological motives played no part, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Wieben Stock, the government prosecutor. She said that her case rests on the following points:

In 1980, Ross and his brother Arthur were involved in a protracted dispute over a house with Brenda Crouthamel, who with her husband owned the Prowest computer marketing firm.

On July 17, 1980, a bomb disguised as an “invention” was mailed to Crouthamel, the same day that the Ross brothers were told they would have to give depositions in the lawsuit stemming from the house dispute.

On arrival, the bomb was plugged into an electric outlet, as per accompanying instructions, by Patricia Wilkerson, a secretary at the computer firm. The 35-year-old mother of two was killed instantly.


The fingerprints of Robert Manning were found on the wrapper of the mail bomb and those of Mrs. Manning on the enclosed letter, U.S. postal authorities allege.

The Ross brothers and the Mannings joined the JDL group in Los Angeles at about the same time in 1971 and became close friends.

William Ross, whose worth three years ago was put at $1.5 million, was a major financial supporter of the JDL. The Los Angeles Times quoted Irv Rubin, executive director of the JDL, as saying that “He (Ross) would come to demonstrations and support us.”

However, prosecutor Stock was at some pains to point out that the Wilkerson bombing “was not committed at the request or with the knowledge or consent of the Jewish Defense League.”

Ross was arrested without incident at his Hollywood home on suspicion of arranging the bombing and aiding and abetting. He is being held without bail after Stock charged that several potential witnesses in the case had been threatened by unknown persons.

Stock said that Ross “told a government witness that if Rochelle Manning hadn’t been so stupid as to fly back to the United States from Israel, this never would have happened and he (Ross) would be in the clear.”

Ross’ attorney responded that his client was innocent of the bombing charges and had not been involved in the intimidation of witnesses.

The trial date for Mrs. Manning has been postponed to Nov. 1 to allow for the possible indictment of additional defendants.

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