Who was Sonny Barger, Hells Angels founder dead at 83?
- The biker died peacefully surrounded by his wife, Zorana, and relatives
- The California resident was best known for launching the Oakland Hells Angels
- He authored five books and appeared on television and in film
Hells Angels founder Sonny Barger died on Wednesday at the age of 83 after battling cancer, his family announced in a statement.
The biker died peacefully surrounded by his wife, Zorana, and relatives.
“If you are reading this message, you’ll know that I’m gone. I’ve asked that this note be posted immediately after my passing," the statement read.
“I’ve lived a long and good life filled with adventure. And I’ve had the privilege to be part of an amazing club.”
He told fans to “stay loyal, remain free, and always value honor.”
Born Ralph Hubert Barger, the California resident was best known for launching the Oakland Hells Angels. He authored five books and appeared on television and in film. He is often credited for building the gang into an international organization. The group marked its 65th anniversary in April.
Barger was inspired by the 1953 crime movie “The Wild One,” which starred Marlon Brando, he wrote in his autobiography.
In 1972, he and three others were acquitted of murdering a Texas drug dealer and setting a home on fire. He was sentenced to 10 years to life in prison in 1973 after he was convicted of possession of narcotics and a weapon by a convicted felon.
He was paroled in November 1977 after serving four-and-a-half years of his sentence, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported.
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In 1979, he was among 33 people indicted on charges of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Barger was acquitted in 1980 after a split verdict.
Years later, he was diagnosed with cancer and had his vocal cords removed.
In 1987, Barger was arrested on charges relating to narcotics, weapons and explosives. Police claimed he was suspected of being involved in the murder of John Cleve Webb, the Anchorage Hells Angels president.
Barger married for the first time to Elsie Mae George, who died on February 1, 1967, from an embolism. In 1969, he began a relationship with Sharon Gruhlke, a former beauty queen from Livermore. Barger married Gruhlke while he was incarcerated at Folsom State Prison in 1973.
In 1998, Barger returned to Arizona, where he had previously served a prison sentence. He was with his third wife Noel and stepdaughter Sarrah. He married his fourth wife, Zorana, on June 25, 2005.
Barger underwent surgery as a result of prostate cancer in 2012.