SAN FRANCISCO -- Dan White, the 1978 assassin of Mayor George Moscone and city Supervisor Harvey Milk, will be released from prison this week by officials who refuse to reveal where he will live because they fear he could be killed.
The California cities of San Francisco, San Diego and Fremont have officially stated that White will be unwelcome when he is freed after slightly more than five years in prison for the City Hall shootings of Moscone and Milk, a popular homosexual supervisor.
White, a former San Francisco police officer, fireman and supervisor, was convicted of voluntary manslaughter for the Nov. 27, 1978, killings by a jury that found him emotionally disturbed at the time.
The verdict and sentence of seven years and eight months, considered by many as much too lenient, triggered a night of rioting in the streets of San Francisco, including overturned, flaming police cars and smashed windows in the civic center.
State officials fear friends of White's victims may try to harm or kill him when he is paroled from Soledad State Prison Jan. 6.
Corrections Department spokeswoman Helen Krogh refused to disclose where White plans to serve his parole. She said his location would be kept secret 'for his own safety.'
'He is a very notorious case and killed some very popular people,' she said.
But once he is released to serve his parole within California, it is unlikely his whereabouts will be a secret for long, said Phil Guthrie, deputy director of state prisons.
He also said it is unlikely White would be given a new identity for protective purposes.
It was not clear whether White would be released from Soledad or be transferred to custody elsewhere for release -- a move that would avoid confrontation with anyone intent upon harming White and allow him to escape the media circus expected at Soledad's gate.
Nor was it known whether White, 37, would be joined immediately by his wife, Maryann, and his two small sons.
Guthrie said there are two theories regarding the size of the town a notorious killer should seek for refuge. In a large town, he said, White might be able to disappear into the crowd. On the other hand, White could stand a greater chance of recognition by a big city's larger and more diverse population.
Jim Varonkafis of the San Diego Police Department said he thought White 'could pretty well disappear in the crowd' in his city of more than 900,000 residents.
But Lt. Dan Cooke of the Los Angeles Police Department said in his city of more than 3 million people, 'There would be so many in the homosexual community who'd be looking for him, there'd be more of an opportunity for him in a small town out in the boonies.'
Undersheriff David Marshall of the tiny Sierra County town of Downieville disagreed.
He said if White 'gave his true name and people knew who he was, I don't think he would make it in a small community.'
'This county is like what it was 25, 30 years ago in the rest of the state, and they have a great respect for law and order,' Marshall said.
Wherever White goes, Guthrie predicted his whereabouts would leak out soon, either when a private citizen recognizes him or when someone in local law enforcement tips the local press.
'Given the nature of the case and what happened at the trial, that makes him news,' said Guthrie, a 20-year prison system veteran. 'He is likely to be subjected to media attention which few people, if any, experience in a lifetime.'