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In Arab headgear and Western jacket and tie, Bishara Sirhan received a TIME correspondent and observed that Sirhan had been the best-behaved of his children. "I don't know," he said, "how this happened and I don't know who pushed him to do this." Would he now go to the U.S.? He thought not. "I raised him to love. I tell you frankly: now I am against him."

Mary Sirhan, who has worked in a church nursery for the past nine years, lives with her sons in an old white frame house. The neighbors in the ethnically mixed, lower-middle-class Pasadena neighborhood describe Sol as "nice, thoughtful, helpful." He liked to talk about books and tend the garden; he played Chinese checkers with a couple of elderly neighbors, one of them a Jewish lady. Sol was no swinger, was rarely seen with girls. His brothers told police that Sol liked to hoard his money—perhaps explaining the $409 he had on him despite his being unemployed recently. He did well enough at John Muir High School to gain admission to Pasadena City College, but he dropped out. He wanted to be a jockey, but could qualify only as a "hot walker," a low-ranking track factotum who cools down horses after the run. Then he got thrown from a horse, suffering head and back injuries.

"Political Act." Later he worked for a time as a $2-an-hour food-store clerk. His former employer, John Weidner, like several others who know him, remembers his frequently expressed hatred for Israel and his strident Jordanian loyalty. Sol liked to boast that he was not an American citizen (as a resident alien, Sirhan could not legally own a concealable firearm in California). A Dutch underground agent who assisted Jews during World War II, Weidner says of Sol: "Over and over he told me that the Jews had everything, but they still used violence to get pieces of Jordanian land." The Rev. Harry Eberts Jr., pastor of the Presbyterian church where Mary Sirhan works and prays, says of Sirhan: "He is a Jordanian nationalist and was committing a political act."

What had this to do with Robert Kennedy? Journalists quickly recalled that Kennedy, in his campaigning on the West Coast, had restated his position that the U.S. had a firm commitment to Israel's security. In New York, Arab Spokesman M. T. Mehdi talked darkly of the "frustration of many Arabs with American politicians who have sold the Arab people of Palestine to the Zionist Jewish voters." That suggested a motive, but District Attorney Evelle Younger and State Attorney General Thomas Lynch wanted to avoid any such discussion until the trial. Thus they were aghast, and said so, when Mayor Yorty went before a news conference to divulge what he described as the contents of Sirhan's private notebooks, found in the Sirhan home.

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