50 years later: Remembering Patty Hearst's kidnapping

Lyanne Melendez Image
Sunday, February 4, 2024
Remembering Patty Hearst's kidnapping 50 years later
It was 50 years ago that newspaper heiress Patty Hearst was kidnapped from her Berkeley apartment by the Symbionese Liberation Army.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It was 50 years ago on Sunday that newspaper heiress Patty Hearst was kidnapped from her Berkeley apartment by the Symbionese Liberation Army, a radical counterculture group.

The 19-year-old's abduction made headlines around the world, especially when two months later Hearst recorded a message stating that she had joined the group.

It happened on February 4, 1974 and the world suddenly came to know Patty Hearst.

Police made the announcement. "Miss Hearst was apparently blindfolded, led from the apartment screaming."

The Symbionese Liberation Army knew her father was a wealthy newspaper publisher.

For weeks, Hearst was locked inside a closet in a San Francisco apartment.

Through a record message Hearst told her parents that she was ok.

Her captures wanted the release of two of its members, charged with killing Oakland Superintendent Marcus Foster.

Another demand was to distribute food among poor people in the state.

But two months after her abduction, Hearst announced, through another recording, that she had joined the SLA, calling herself Tania.

Confirmation came in the form of a surveillance video showing Hearst and members of the group robbing the Hibernia Bank in San Francisco.

Then, the group lost six of its members during a shoot out involving Los Angeles police. Their safehouse caught on fire while they were inside.

It was feared that Hearst was among them, but it turns out that she and two other members, Bill and Emily Harris were away at the time.

Dan Siegel, an Oakland attorney spoke to ABC7 news about meeting up with the surviving members while Hearst was still supposedly a hostage.

"To me the most surprising thing that happened during the course of the afternoon that I spent with them was that Patty left the house by herself for about 45 minutes and came back with a bag of groceries and that certainly suggested to me that she wasn't being held against her will and was very much a part of what these people were doing," revealed Siegel.

Hearst and the others were arrested on Sept. 18, 1975. She served 22 months in prison.

She went on to live a relatively quiet life back east. She's now 69 years old.

When she finally wrote her autobiography, Hearst documented, for the first time, another bank robbery in Sacramento where a woman died when one of their guns accidentally fired. Hearst was not inside but was instead waiting in the get-away car.

Years later, the former members of the SLA were tried for that murder and served time. Hearst agreed to testify against them after receiving immunity.

In 2001, then President Clinton granted Hearst a full pardon.

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