The great wheel of tragedy turned again yesterday. A 64-year-old Hells Angel named Thomas Heath was sentenced to prison. It will be his second trip to the penitentiary and although he plans to appeal it is unlikely that he will ever be released.
Heath’s biography is Faulknerian. “It’s all now you see,” the greatest American tragedian wrote in Intruder in the Dust. “Yesterday won’t be over until tomorrow and tomorrow began ten thousand years ago.” Even people who have never read Faulkner know his most famous line: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
Faulkner was writing about Thomas Heath.
The Frame Up
As a 29-year-old Hells Angels prospect in September, 1977 Heath walked into a motorcycle shop called the Frame-Up at 5015 North Figueroa Street in Highland Park, California with a tire. The shop was owned by two Mongols and Heath left the tire to be repaired. There was a bomb inside. It killed two people when it exploded. One of them was a 22-year-old Mongol named Henry Jimenez. The other was a 15-year-old boy named Raymond Hernandez.
It was one of four attacks by members of the Hells Angels on members of the Mongols that season.
Less than three weeks before the tire bombing the Secretary/Treasurer of the San Diego chapter of the Mongols Motorcycle Club, Emerson “Redbeard” Morris, and a Mongol named Raymond “Jingles” Smith, who was the Sergeant at Arms of the same chapter, were shot off their motorcycles on the Golden State Freeway in San Diego County. Los Angeles and San Diego newspapers called it “The Labor Day Murders.” Every member of the San Diego charter of the Hells Angels was eventually arrested as a result of the murders of Morris and Smith.
At the viewing for those two dead men a mourner left a white, 1962 Rambler and a bouquet of red and white carnations behind as he walked away. The car exploded moments later and two Mongols and the father of a Mongol were seriously injured. After the fight between Mongols and Hells Angels in Harrah’s casino in April 2002 someone sent red and white flowers to the hospital room of then Mongols President Roger Pinney. The flowers were probably a sour gift from an ATF Agent but whoever sent them clearly intended to remind members of both clubs that the past is “not even the past.”
Days after the Frame-Up bombing, a van belonging to the President of the Mongols San Fernando Valley chapter exploded at 6:30 a.m. when the Mongol opened his van door.
Heath who, with George Christie, was one of the two original members of the Ventura charter of the HAMC was convicted of two counts of second degree murder in 1994 as a result of the Frame-Up bombing. And, for killing those two people he was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Heath was already locked up at the time. He was sent to prison in 1992 after he was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and “dissuading a witness by threats” following an ugly, violent argument with his then wife.
The most recent charges against Heath also stem from domestic violence. Heath was living with a woman in Ventura in November 2010. The woman told him to move out and when he refused, as is now the custom in America, she called the police. She said he threatened to kill her and her adult son. Allegedly, Heath specifically threatened to tell his Hells Angels club brothers that the woman was “a rat.”
The cops who responded to the scene said they heard Heath threaten the woman again. The same police also stated that Heath told them he had killed people before and that “when he wants to kill someone, he doesn’t threaten them, he just kills them.”
As a result, Heath was convicted last December of “threatening a witness” and “street terrorism.”
At his sentencing Friday, Heath’s defender Adam Pearlman asked Ventura County Superior Judge David Hirsch to consider Heath’s “age and health” when pronouncing the sentence. Prosecutor Tate McCallister asked the judge to consider the tire bombing of the Frame-Up. “We shouldn’t be engaging in arithmetic to gauge his life expectancy,” McCallister said.
Judge Hirsch sentenced Heath to 35 years to life.
This is a corrected version of a story originally published on February 4, 2012. The original story identified Emerson “Redbeard” Morris as the “National President of the Mongols Motorcycle Club.