Patricia "Patty" Hearst, the granddaughter of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, was abducted from her apartment in 1974
On Feb. 4, 1974, newspaper heiress Patricia "Patty" Hearst was kidnapped at gunpoint in her Berkeley, Calif., apartment — and what followed made headlines for years to come.
Hearst is the granddaughter of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst and was living with her fiancé at the time of her abduction. It was later learned that she was abducted by a group of militant revolutionaries dubbed the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA).
According to the FBI, the SLA chose to kidnap Hearst because she came from a wealthy and powerful family, which would make the story of her abduction front-page news and thrust SLA's agenda into the public eye. The SLA claimed that one of their goals was to "unite all oppressed people into a fighting force and destroy the system of the capitalist state."
The radicals demanded food donations for the poor in exchange for Hearst's safe release, the FBI states. In response, her family created a $2‐million food distribution program titled People In Need.
“We have done those things that we said we would do, and now I think we're down to the actual negotiations for Patty's release,” Lud Kramer, then the Secretary of State for Washington who directed the People In Need program, said at the time, The New York Times reported in March 1974.
But despite the demand being met, Hearst would still not see her family for more than a year.
In April, the SLA released an audiotape where Hearst publicly stated that she had joined their cause. This claim was seemingly confirmed when an infamous photo of Hearst was released posing with a gun in front of an SLA flag. Then, days later, she was caught on surveillance footage wielding a gun and participating in a bank robbery with four SLA members months after her abduction, according to the FBI.
Wanted posters prominently featured Hearst and were plastered across the U.S., but her capture wouldn't be easy. In May, authorities discovered an SLA safe house in L.A., leading to a shootout and the building being set on fire, resulting in the deaths of six SLA members, according to the FBI. But Hearst was not at the house.
Months later, however, the FBI caught up to her on September 18, 1975 in San Francisco — 19 months after her violent abduction. She was arrested and charged with bank robbery.
Hearst said she was brainwashed and abused by SLA members during her time in captivity. In recent years, she spoke out against a film about her abduction, saying that projects about her story "romanticizes my rape and torture,” PEOPLE previously reported. Many believed Hearst was a victim of Stockholm Syndrome — when people who are abducted begin to sympathize with their captors.
Although Hearst said she was not a willing participant in the robbery, she was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison.
However, in 1979 after serving nearly two years, President Jimmy Carter set her free by commuting her sentence, and in 2001, President Bill Clinton gave her a full pardon.
In 2002, five former SLA members were charged with the murder of Myrna Opsahl, who was killed during another bank robbery on April 21, 1975 at Crocker National Bank in Carmichael, Calif., ABC News reported.
Four of the members — William Harris, Emily Montague (formerly Emily Harris), Sara Jane Olson, and Michael Bortin — were sentenced to six to eight years in prison for second-degree murder in February 2003, The New York Times reported. The fifth suspect, James Kilgore, who went on the run after the arrest of the other SLA members, was also convicted and sentenced to six years in prison in 2004, NBC News reports.
Where is Hearst Now?
Hearst, who goes by Patricia now, is 69 years old. In 1982, after she was released from prison, she published a personal account of her time with the SLA in the book Every Secret Thing. She later wrote the novel Murder at San Simeon.
In a 1982 PEOPLE cover story, Hearst went into detail about her abduction. She went on to act in numerous movies, including Cry-Baby with Johnny Depp, Bio-Dome and A Dirty Shame, according to her IMBD.
She married her former bodyguard Bernard Shaw in 1979. They had two children, Lydia Marie Hearst-Shaw and Gillian Hearst-Shaw. Shaw died at 68 years old in 2013, and Hearst has not remarried.
Today, Hearst competes in dog shows. In 2015, her dog won at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York, USA Today reported.
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