Patty Hearst would simply have become another woman in American society, living her life while enjoying the benefits of being the granddaughter of renowned American publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. Her life took a completely different turn, however, when she was kidnapped in 1974, at the age of 19, by the notorious domestic terrorist group SLA – Symbionese Liberation Army – which was later to initiate her into their affairs. The case of Patty Hearst was to become one of the strongest in American history. In the end, America and Hearst emerged victorious, while the SLA was completely wiped out by 2002.
Patty Hearst Bio
On February 20, 1954, Patty was born into the wealthy Hearst family. At her birth, she was christened Patricia Campbell Hearst by her parents Randolph Apperson Hearst and Catherine Hearst (née Wood Campbell). She was the third born daughter of the 5 children that her parents would have. Patty’s father Randolph was the fourth and youngest son of media mogul William Randolph Hearst, who was known for building the largest newspaper, magazine, and film business in the world.
Patty was born in San Francisco, California, but grew up mostly in Hillsborough, California, where she attended Crystal Springs School for Girls. She later attended the Santa Catalina School in Monterey, a private school. Patty Hearst led a fairly normal life and, as her father later told us, had no need for private security, as he was just one of the many heirs to her grandfather William’s media empire.
After high school graduation, she attended Menlo College in Atherton, California before moving to the University of California at Berkeley. Patty Hearst and her then-fiancé were in their apartment at 2603 Benvenue Street in Berkeley, California when she was kidnapped by armed men who broke into her room at about 9 p.m. on February 4, 1974.
Her fiancé Steven Weed was beaten and tied up with a neighbor who tried to help her while the armed trio took a blindfolded patty which they put in the trunk of their car.
Why Was Patty Hearst Kidnapped?
Shortly after Patty’s abduction, the leftist anti-capitalist terrorist group, the Symbionese Liberation Army, claimed responsibility. The group, led by an African-American ex-convict, Donald DeFreeze, had targeted Patty Hearst in an effort to attract government attention because she came from a wealthy and influential family. They succeeded when news of the kidnapping made headlines in national news agencies.
Their original intention was to get the Hearst family to use their influence to help secure the release of two SLA members who were in prison. When that seemed impossible, they demanded money as ransom to free Patty. At the same time, Patty was tortured, threatened with death, and brainwashed to accept the ideology of the group. The SLA demanded that the Hearst family donate $70 worth of food to every poor person in the Bay Area, raising the cost to $400 million, but Patty’s father was able to raise $2 million.
Despite the blackmailing of Patty’s father, Patty was not released; instead, in an ugly turn of events, the SLA began releasing tapes on which Patty had sworn allegiance to the SLA from April 1974, about two months after her abduction. On one of the tapes, Paty was heard to say that she had adopted the new name “Tania.
Later in April 1974, Patty was seen on bank surveillance cameras holding a gun in her hand along with other SLA members during a bank robbery. The FBI intensified its investigation and in May discovered an SLA safe house that housed the group. In a violent shootout between SLA members and police, the group’s leader, DeFreeze, was killed along with five others. Patty Hearst and the rest escaped, however.
In September 1975, about 19 months after her initial capture by the SLA, Patty Hearst was arrested in San Francisco while traveling the country with other SLA members to avoid capture. She was charged and convicted of bank robbery, whereupon she was sentenced to 7 years behind bars despite allegations that she had been brainwashed. Further examination of her mental state revealed a decline in her IQ, among other factors that confirmed her claims of brainwashing.
Patty was released in 1979 after two years in prison after President Jimmy Carter commuted her sentence. President Bill Clinton would later pardon her completely.
The FBI took complete action against the SLA until 2002 when it ended the group’s activities.
Where Is She Today?
After a series of interviews with psychiatrists, Patty Hearst came to deny her loyalty to the SLA. Upon her release, Patty Hearst immediately returned to a normal life. During her trial, she fell in love with one of her bodyguards, Bernard Lee Shaw, whom she married two months after her release from prison. They remained married until Shaw’s death in 2013. Their marriage produced two children; Gillian and Lydia Hearst-Shaw, the actress, lifestyle blogger, and fashion model.
Since then, Patty Hearst has dedicated herself to charitable causes, especially helping children with HIV/AIDS. She has written books about her SLA experiences and has also occasionally acted in films.
Patty Hearst was biologically equipped to be a rich woman, and although the SLA drama meant that she had to suffer hardship for a while, Patty Hearst was fortunately still able to live her life in prosperity again. It is indeed a privilege to be born with a silver spoon. Her net worth has been estimated at $45 million in recent years.