Patty Hearst, Criminal Or Victim? Facts And Trivia About The '70s Most Wanted

By | November 14, 2019

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Patty Hearst welcome home button. Tania was the name she received from the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA). In 1974 she became a member of the FBI's ten most wanted list. (Photo by David J. & Janice L. Frent/Corbis via Getty Images)

In 1974, Patty Hearst was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army, becoming the most famous abductee of the '70s. When she robbed a bank a year later, she became a celebrity criminal and fugitive. Young, beautiful and incredibly rich, the facts of Hearst's story sparked debate up to and after her eventual capture by the FBI -- was she a terrorist, or had she been a brainwashed victim the whole time?

On February 4, 1974, an armed group of men and women burst into the apartment where Patty Hearst and her fiance were living. They threw Patty, a 19 year-old college student, in the trunk of their car, beat up her fiance, Steven Weed, and fled. Later, the identities of her captors would be revealed; they were the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), led by Donald DeFreeze, an escaped convict. They were an eclectic group: men and women, blacks and whites, anarchists and extremists. They were domestic terrorists with the goal of overthrowing the U.S. Government. They kidnapped Hearst because of her family’s position and they wanted to draw attention to their cause.

The SLA Used Her Family Name For Publicity

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Patty Hearst, with the logo of the SLA. Source: (Encyclopedia Britannica)

Patty Hearst’s grandfather, William Randolph Hearst, was pretty much the father of tabloid journalism, and inspired Orson Welles' 1941 masterpiece Citizen Kane. Patty Hearst met her fiancé while she was in high school, when she was 15 and he was her young math tutor. Eventually, the two got engaged and moved in together.

After the kidnapping, Hearst's mother, Catherine Hearst, publicly expressed her disappointment with Weed:

Whatever happened to the real men in this world? Men like Clark Gable? No one would have carried off my daughter if there had been a real man there.

The SLA, now in possession of their rich hostage, first demanded that two of their members who were jailed be released. When that was denied, they demanded her family give millions to feed California’s poor; her family and the Hearst Foundation gave $2 million but the SLA demanded more.