He was the Rupert Murdoch of his day: a media baron who made millions marketing scandal, crime and crisis. He was so rich, he built a castle as a monument to his vanity. So iconic that his life story inspired the movie classic "Citizen Kane."
When William Randolph Hearst died in 1951, he left future generations of Hearsts set for life--safely cushioned in the bubble of their birthright. But on the evening of Feb. 4, 1974, that bubble burst.
It was the kind of story old man Hearst would have loved. But few who watched it unfold 35 years ago could have guessed that instead of ransom these kidnappers wanted attention for their cause--even if they weren't quite sure what their cause was.
Brenda Wurzell (eyewitness): I heard her pleading –“Please no, not me,” or words to that effect.
Patty Hearst was a 19-year-old college student, the third of five daughters born to Randolph and Catherine Hearst.
Privately schooled--and groomed for a life of leisure-- Patty nevertheless had a rebellious streak. She frequently clashed with her mother and dismayed both parents when at sixteen she started dating her 23-year-old math tutor, Steven Weed. By the time she was 18, Patty and Steve were living together in Berkley. They planned to be married in June. Then everything changed.
Brenda Wurzell: I heard what were gunshots and I looked out the window and all I saw were the sparks of the gun going off, and I hit the floor.
In a 1997 interview with Dateline, Patty recalled that it all began with an unexpected knock on the door.
Patty Hearst: There was a person standing there. I was in the kitchen. And what I heard was that they had hit a car downstairs and said could they use the phone--and with that people just burst into the apartment.
Forced to the floor, Patty was gagged while her fiancé was beaten with a wine bottle.
Patty Hearst: They started firing machine guns. I mean--I was blindfolded but I could hear the neighbors screaming.
Stuffed into the trunk of a car, Patty Hearst was quickly whisked away.
Patty Hearst: I was only spoken to occasionally when they wanted something. I was questioned by them continuously.
For Randolph Hearst, publisher of the San Francisco Examiner, impromptu press conferences on his front lawn were about to become routine.
Randolph Hearst: We don't know who they are. We don't know when we will hear from them.
A few days later, they did-- when a tape recording was dropped off at a local radio station. Video: NBC special report, 1975: Patty Hearst's arrest
Patty Hearst, 1974 tape: Mom, Dad--I'm OK. I had a few scrapes and stuff but they've washed them up and they're getting OK.
Patty Hearst: I think it was just a way of confirming that I was alive.
Patty Hearst, 1974 tape: I'm with a combat unit that's armed with automatic weapons and there is no way that I will be released until they let me go--
The next voice on the tape was that of a man who called himself General Field Marshall Cinque.
Field Marshall Cinque: Whatever happens to your daughter will be totally your responsibility and the responsibility of the authorities which you represent.
Most people had never heard of Cinque—or the shadowy group he claimed to lead.
Chancellor: The kidnappers are part of a terrorist group that calls itself the Symbionese Liberation Army.
But Robert Blackburn had. He knew Cinque was an escaped con named Donald Defreeze and he knew his followers were dangerously deranged.
Robert Blackburn: They were just a pathetic, mediocre sort of --after spasm of the best part of the 60's
Blackburn's introduction to SLA had come three months before the Hearst kidnapping.
It was Nov. 6, 1973, when the then-unknown SLA committed its first terrorist act.
Robert Blackburn: It was the end of a long day--I came down and I saw two people leaning against the wall there.
Walking with Blackburn that night outside the Oakland School administration building was his friend, Marcus Foster.
Robert Blackburn: It was here that I heard the shots going off.
Foster was Oakland's popular superintendent of schools. Blackburn, his chief deputy.
Robert Blackburn: I saw two guys crouched like this firing pistols--and I could see the flash.
Marcus Foster was killed instantly. Then a load of buckshot hit Blackburn in the back.
Josh Mankiewicz, Dateline NBC: You've kept this coat all these years?
Robert Blackburn: Oh yeah--24 entrance and exit holes. I still have a lot of shrapnel in me. Liver and kidney damage.
In taking credit, the SLA said Foster had been marked for death because he was a lackey for the ruling class.
Blackburn was targeted because the SLA claimed he was a secret CIA agent.
Robert Blackburn: The whole thing was fantasy thinking. And they thought that by killing a prominent African American educator that would be like striking a match of revolutionary truth.
If that was the intent, it backfired. The Foster killing was roundly deplored, even by those on the left that SLA had hoped to inspire. When two SLA soldiers were arrested for the Foster killing two months later, the SLA decided to seize Patty Hearst in hopes of arranging a prisoner exchange.
Robert Blackburn: All this stuff was just media, you know, dessert.
Josh Mankiewicz: And Marcus Foster somehow got lost in that?
Robert Blackburn: Totally lost in all of that.
The SLA seemed determined that their revolution would be televised. Their communiqués -- Video: 1974 news report on Hearst's Berkeley kidnapping featuring the voice of their famous hostage-- always made headlines.
Patty Hearst: I am alive, and it's really depressing though to hear people talking about me like I'm dead.
Afraid Patty might be hurt in a shootout if police found their hiding place, Randolph Hearst wanted to negotiate directly with the kidnappers.
Randolph Hearst: We don't have any desire for revenge on anybody if she is returned unharmed.
Ten days after her kidnapping, he learned how expensive that would be.
The SLA demanded the Hearsts feed California's poor as a pre-condition to negotiating Patty's release. That would cost millions, but Patty's father was willing.
Randolph Hearst: I just want these people to know that I'm going to do everything in my power to set up the kind of program that they are talking about.
Randolph Hearst may have had the will and the wallet--but he didn't have a way to make it all work. The food program he launched a few days later was an expensive disaster.
It would not be the last time the Hearsts were shown that there were limits to what even their money could buy.
You didn't have to be superstitious in early 1974 to believe the country was cursed. Gas lines wrapped around the block. Truckers were on strike, and the president was under siege.
And now, on top of all that, the news from California was that the kidnappers who'd snatched a newspaper heiress were demanding that her father, one of California's richest men, feed thousands of the state's poorest people.
The first of the Hearst family food giveaways was chaotic. Near riots broke out in some places.
“I hate to take advantage of what's been happening to the young lady but my children need food just like anybody else kids. Right on!”
And even though Randolph Hearst committed $2 million to the program, the SLA was unimpressed.
Field Marshall Cinque: This amount is not at all a good faith gesture, but just throwing a few crumbs to the people.
During this time, Patty says she was kept blindfolded in a closet--terrified and forced to have sex with SLA men.
Patty Hearst: I mean, if you are going to break somebody down, you clearly use everything that is at your disposal--and obviously sexual molestation is a really powerful way to attack a woman.
Frantic, Randolph Hearst even asked hardened criminals to help him contact the SLA---but nothing worked, not even a $4 million ransom offer. Then--in early April, after weeks of silence--the SLA released a stunning new recording. This one also had Patty's voice on it. But this time, the script had changed dramatically.
Patty Hearst: I have been given the choice of 1) being released in a safe area or 2) join the forces of the Symbionese Liberation Army and fighting for my freedom and the freedom of all oppressed people. I have chosen to stay and fight.
Not only that, but Patty said she had a new SLA name.
Patty Hearst: I have been given the name Tania after a comrade who fought alongside Che in Bolivia for the people of Bolivia.
Strange stuff--even by San Francisco standards. But then, the Symbionese Liberation Army was nothing, if not strange. Formed in the fall of 1973, the SLA seemed to be made out of contradictory elements left over from the 1960s. They emerged from the anti-war movement, yet promoted a military image. Half its members were ardent feminists, yet the men dominated. They embraced black militancy, yet only their leader, Cinque, was black. And though their logo was a fierce seven-headed cobra, the symbolism was--at best-- murky.
Patty Hearst: I had to memorize what each head of the seven-headed cobra meant. Of course, later on I learned that he had lifted that from the Kwanza celebration.
Just how Patty Hearst transitioned from terrified kidnap victim to the gun-toting terrorist is a question that still echoes across the decades. Was she a willing participant? Was she brainwashed? Or did her new SLA friends liberate her from the cloistered life of an heiress?
Randolph Hearst: Well, I think what people want to know is whether we believe Patty is a member of the SLA or not. Personally, I don't believe it.
It did seem hard to believe, but two weeks after allegedly joining the SLA, "Tania" made her debut.
The Hibernia bank in San Francisco had just opened when armed bandits burst through the front door, announcing a holdup, and shouting that they were the SLA.
Front and center were Cinque, wearing the floppy hat, and the heiress formerly known as Patty.
Security Guard: I heard her say she would shoot the first SOB that moved or did anything out of line.
The bank security photos hit the nation like a bolt of lightning. The Hearsts insisted that Patty was still a victim. Look at the photos, they said. Look at the guns pointed at Patty.
But nine days later came a new SLA recording.
Tania: Greetings to the people, this is Tania.
And "Tania" wanted to set the record straight.
Tania: My gun was loaded, and at no time did my comrades intentionally point their guns at me. As for being brainwashed, the idea is ridiculous to the point of being beyond belief.
By now the police heat in San Francisco was so intense, General Field Marshal Cinque decided to move his tiny army south to Los Angeles. For six of them, L.A. would be literally the end of the road.
In May 1974, the nine-member Symbionese Liberation Army rolled into Los Angeles looking for a place to hide. It was here that this bizarre story took its strangest turn.
Tom Matthews: I had just got done eating dinner and I had my van for sale. And all of a sudden there was a knock on the door and there's a woman standing at my door wanting to test drive my van.
Tom Matthews was a high school senior that spring. He didn't recognize the woman on his doorstep but says he thought nothing of tossing her the keys and climbing into the passenger seat.
Tom Matthews: We went just one block and she stopped. And she asked if two of her friends could come along.
Josh Mankiewicz: And you said?
Tom Matthews: I was pretty easygoing. I said, "Sure."
Tom says that as "the friends" -- a man and a woman-- approached the van he noticed a bulge beneath the man's jacket.
Tom Matthews: He opened my door and opened up his coat and he had a machine gun hanging down and he said he was with the SLA and they needed to borrow my van.
It was the beginning of a wild night for young Tom Matthews.
Tom Matthews: And as I was climbing into the back of the van he said that as long as I didn't do anything flakey, they wouldn't hurt me. And my response was “As long as I don't get shot, I don't care what happens.”
Tom says that it was then that the woman they'd just picked up sat down beside him.
Josh Mankiewicz: Did you know who she was?
Tom Matthews: He asked, Do you know who this is? And my first response was “No,” because she had a black curly wig on. And he said, "This is Tania." And I knew from watching all the news that that was her SLA name. And I said, "Man my friends aren't going to believe this."
And so it just kinda set the tone for the evening.
The man was Bill Harris, a Vietnam vet. The woman who'd knocked on tom's door was Harris's wife, Emily.
Tom Matthews: At the time, I just did not feel threatened at all. But I've come to realize just how lucky I am.
What Tom didn't know is that earlier, Bill Harris had been caught shoplifting at a nearby sporting goods store.
Patty's own recollection of that day is depicted in the 1988 film "Patty Hearst" based on her book. In it, patty sees the Harrises scuffling with store employees and sprays the store with gunfire, enabling the Harrises to escape.
Patty Hearst: I did exactly what we had rehearsed a thousand times and didn't even think about it until it was over when they were running back to the truck. And I just thought, what have I done?
Patty now says that was a mistake. A conditioned response. But Tom Matthews says at the time, patty said just the opposite.
Tom Matthews: She described how proud she was to see her, as she called them "comrades" get up off the pavement and come running across the street to the van she was in.
A clean getaway, except for the handcuff that still dangled from Bill Harris's wrist.
Tom Matthews: And so the first order of business was to get his handcuff off of him. And so we stopped at a store -so they could buy a hacksaw.
While cutting the handcuff from Harris's hand, Tom says he and the SLA talked about everything from robbing banks to stealing bases.
Tom Matthews: They saw I had a baseball bat in the back of my van and I told them I had a championship baseball game the next day.
Tom says the urban guerillas showed him how to handle one of their guns.
Tom Matthews: I had asked them why they robbed the Hibernia bank. And he explained to me that they were fighting a civil war against the United States government and that they needed money to kinda fund their movement. And, and then that's when Patty chimed in to a long dissertation about how she was a willing participant in that bank robbery-
Tom says the terrorists even treated him to a double feature at a drive- in theater where--they expected to link up with the rest of SLA.
Tom Matthews: The other group didn't show up because of all the police and the, you know, big shootout at the sporting goods store.
Back in Lynwood, Tom's father and his girlfriend, Susan, who'd come by to see Tom, were worried sick. After all, how long could a test drive take?
Susan: At 9:30, I actually thought he might be, you know, knocked in the head dead or something because it just wasn't like him.
Upon hearing that police suspected the SLA in the shootout at a nearby sporting goods store, Tom's father had a hunch that they might also be behind his son's disappearance.
Tom Matthews: So he called the Lynwood Police department. And he said, "I think my son has been abducted by the SLA."
Josh Mankiewicz: The police thought there was nothing to it.
Susan: No, they giggled at his dad. And said, you know, "Call us in 24 hours.” And, you know, he's an 18-year-old kid. He's probably out running around.
Tom says that just after sunrise his new SLA friends hijacked another car and tossed him the keys to his van. After twelve hours with America's most notorious gang, the teenager was free to go.
Susan: He came in at 7 in the morning. He comes in and goes "Hi" and smiles. And of course we were just nothing but tears and pretty hysterical when we saw him.
Tom told most of his story to the police and FBI that morning. But he deliberately left out one important detail.
Tom Matthews: I did not tell them that Patty was in the van at first.
Josh Mankiewicz: Why not?
Tom Matthews: My thinking was--"They didn't do anything. They didn't harm me." And if somebody woulda at that point in time said "Would you want us to prosecute these people for what they did to you?”, I would have said, "No."
Once word got out, reporters raced to Tom's baseball game hoping for a comment. But Tom wasn't talking. By the time the game was over, the spotlight had moved on. A bigger story was unfolding across town.
The shootout exploded across television screens in Southern California like a roman candle. The events that led to this urban Alamo began the day before the day before when Patty Hearst rescued two SLA comrades from arrest by shooting up this sporting goods store.
Police found evidence in the van they'd been driving that eventually led them here. After surrounding the SLA house with overwhelming firepower, the police ordered everyone inside to surrender. When the SLA responded with gunfire, the LAPD unleashed everything they had.
In all, the LAPD and FBI fired more than one thousand rounds of ammunition into the SLA hideout. Eventually, the house caught fire and burned to the ground.
Reporter: So apparently they got none of the suspects out of the house.
Among those watching was Tom Matthews, who'd spent the previous night as a hostage of Patty Hearst and her SLA comrades--Bill and Emily Harris.
Tom Matthews: I thought the three I was with was most likely in there
As Tom watched, he remembered something Bill Harris had told him less than 24 hours earlier.
Tom: He told me that if the police knew that they were in the van, that the police would have just leveled the van and wouldn't have cared if I was in there or who else was in there.
Six charred bodies were pulled from the smoking ruins. What no one knew was whether Patty Hearst was one of them.
Patty Hearst: Everybody thought that I was inside the house.
It turns out, Patty and the Harrises were spectators like everyone else. Unable to link up with the rest of their gang, they'd checked into a hotel room near Disneyland and turned on the TV.
Patty Hearst: What we saw was the police attacking the house. I was basically imagining that that was what was going to happen to me because clearly--everybody thought I was there.
When dental records revealed that Patty was not among the dead, her parents told the press they feared the SLA might kill her in retaliation.
Tom Matthews: That's when I knew I had to tell the FBI that she was in the van and she was a willing participant because I didn't want them to think their daughter was gonna be assassinated ‘cause she was one of them.
After hearing Tom's revised story, the FBI flew the teenager to San Francisco to testify before a grand jury investigating the Hibernia bank robbery.
Tom Matthews: After I testified--the next day--the headlines were "19 counts against Patty Hearst." So it was my testimony that she was a willing participant that turned her from a victim to-- to a fugitive.
The SLA was now an army of three--and their very survival depended on finding some friendly faces. Two weeks after the shootout, a few hundred sympathizers in Berkeley held a memorial rally for the SLA dead. Kathy Soliah, a close friend of one of the dead SLA soldiers helped organize the event.
Kathy Soliah: SLA soldiers--though I know it's not necessary to say--keep fighting. I'm with you and we are with you.
A few days after the memorial rally in Berkeley, the SLA released another communiqué.
Death to the fascist insect that preys upon the life of the people.
Like the others, this one was full of defiant bluster. But this time--when Patty Hearst's voice was heard...
Tania: Greetings to the people, this is Tania.
A veil seemed to lift and reveal a bit of human drama behind the bravado. Tania, spoke movingly of her lost comrades--and lovingly of one in particular.
Tania: Cujo was the gentlest, most beautiful man I have ever known. Neither Cujo or I had ever loved an individual the way we loved each other.
Cujo was the SLA name for Willie Wolfe-the only man other than the leader, Cinque, to die in the L.A. Shootout.
Tania: I was ripped off by the pigs when they murdered Cujo.
After the shootout in L.A., Patty and the Harrises were hunted, homeless and broke. They found a benefactor in a writer who wanted to write a book about the SLA. With his help, Patty and the Harrises hit the road. It would be months before they were heard from again.
After the shootout in Los Angeles, Patty Hearst and Bill and Emily Harris seemed to be simultaneously nowhere and everywhere.
Randolph Hearst: We've had reports that she was every place from one end of the country to the other—Canada, down in South America, and everything else.
In the summer of 1974, America was a nation transfixed by high political drama.
RichardNixon: I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.
But for three SLA refugees seeking asylum far from California, it was a season in the sun.
Howard Kohn: It's an odyssey to separately getting all three of them across country. They drive posing as middle class kids on a tennis vacation.
Howard Kohn wrote for Rolling Stone at the time-- the counter culture's journal of record. Kohn and his co-author David Weir were the first to get the inside story on Patty Hearst's life on the run with the Harrises.
Howard Kohn: We were mingling and mixing with a lot of people who were sympathetic to the SLA--which is mainly how we got the story.
According to Kohn's sources, the keys to the SLA's survival after Los Angeles were the Scotts: Video: Patty Hearst's life with the SLA Jack Scott and his wife Miki. Scott hoped to write a book about the SLA.
Howard Kohn: The price that the Scotts extract from these SLA fugitives is that they would lay down their guns for that period of time because the Scotts don't wanna end up in a shootout.
Kohn says the Scotts rented this Pennsylvania farmhouse for the trio to hideout in until the heat in California died down.
Howard Kohn: There was this idyllic summer at a farmhouse in Pennsylvania where the Harrises and Patty relax and workout and go skinny dipping in ponds. They hole up there for the months of July and August. By Labor Day, the Scotts are tired of them and the book idea has fallen through.
If ever there was a time when Patty Hearst could have escaped and gone home, the summer of '74 would seem to have been it. By the time police learned that this farmhouse outside Scranton, Pa., had been the SLA's summer playground, the trio was long gone.
The trail may have gone stone-cold, but the pocket-sized Symbionese Liberation Army was still on the march and headed west.
Howard Kohn: Bill Harris is the general with an army of two, Emily, his wife, and Patty.
Josh Mankiewicz: Calls himself General Teko.
Howard Kohn: Calls himself General Teko.
Josh Mankiewicz: And no one laughed.
Howard Kohn: Laughter?
Josh Mankiewicz: It is pretty preposterous. A guy calling himself General Teko.
Howard Kohn: Right.
By fall 1974, patty hearst and the harrises were back in california, and settled in sacramento where two sla soldiers were going to go on trial for the murder of oakland school superintendent marcus foster.
With half a dozen new troops recruited from Berkeley's radical fringe, the SLA rearmed and resumed what they called "combat operations".
Beckey Fischer: They busted in the doors--both doors like this and they were constantly screaming--you goddamned motherf----s this is a bank robbery and we are gonna f--- kill you.
Beckey Fischer was a 19-year-old bank teller that April morning in 1975.
Beckey Fischer: And instantly there was a loud blast--which took us all by surprise.
That sound was a shotgun blast ripping through the mid-section of a bank customer, Myrna Video: Randolph Hearst speaks Opsahl. As the 42-year-old mother of four crumpled to the floor, two masked men vaulted through the teller's windows.
Beckey Fischer: It was a smaller-built man, all in black with the black pistol with a gun in my stomach yelling at me.
Josh Mankiewicz: Saying?
Beckey Fischer: "Open your drawer or I'm gonna fu---ing kill you." And I was shaking, trying to find the right key to get it into the lock and finally got it open.
Beckey says everyone was told to lie face down--or die. In a matter of minutes, the robbers were gone.
Beckey Fischer: I walked over to my teller window and looked over into the lobby. I saw Ms. Opsahl laying there in a huge pool of blood all over the lobby floor.
Beckey had no way of knowing that two of those masked bandits were women--Emily Harris and Kathy Soliah. Nor did she know that the getaway car had been driven by Patty Hearst. All she did know was she couldn't seem to shake--those five minutes of terror.
Beckey Fischer: It ruined my life, I feel. Changed it.
The murder of Myrna Opsahl also changed the SLA. Members began openly challenging Bill Harris's leadership. By the time the group returned to San Francisco in the fall of 1975, General Teko's army was falling apart.
By the fall of 1975, Patty Hearst, the girl few had heard of until she was gone, was known worldwide as Tania the revolutionary.
Patty Hearst: It was kind of the defining moment of 1974. This was a moment that people definitely remember.
On September 17, 1975, this incredible story took its final twist. The break came when FBI agents discovered the Harrises living at this safe house--and Patty Hearst living at this one.
At first, "Patty" was still "Tania," the defiant SLA soldier.
Sheriff: Patty Hearst listed her occupation as Urban Revolutionary.
Terence Hallinan--a lawyer hired by the Hearsts--spoke with Patty soon after her arrest.
Terence Hallinan: She struck me as just an SLA advocate.
Josh Mankiewicz: Not some frightened little girl?
Terence Hallinan: No. She was saying she was one of them.
Although it had been 19 months since her kidnapping, Patty's parents said she seemed like her old self when they visited her in jail.
Hearsts: And we had a very happy conversation about family matters.
But in a taped conversation with a visiting friend, Patty sounded more like her new persona.
“I guess I'll just tell you, my politics are real different from way back when. Obviously. So this creates all kinds of problems for me in terms of a defense. When I was first arrested, I was still a real mess. I said a lot of crazy things.
Booked on bank robbery charges, Patty faced serious prison time. But Terence Hallinan had a theory.
Terence Hallinan: My defense was involuntary intoxication. That she had been given drugs with the treatment they gave her. The terrible treatment in the closet. And then let out and converted to their ideology. And that was the truth of what happened and that was a valid defense.
There was just one problem: The Hearsts wouldn't hear of it.
Terence Hallinan: They didn't want drugs involved in the thing.
Josh Mankiewicz: They wanted her under duress: “I didn't want to do any of it, but I had a gun on me…”
Terence Hallinan: Brainwashed. Duress and Brainwashing. I kept telling them that's not a defense.
Josh Mankiewicz: And they said what? We don't care?
Terence Hallinan: They just didn't agree with me.
So, the family hired a lawyer who did agree with them. The biggest legal brand name money Video: Archival news report on SLA shootout could buy: F. Lee Bailey.
Terence Hallinan: If she'd made false move in that bank she'd have been blown away.
In court, Patty recanted everything she had said and done as "Tania"--claiming that after spending two months in a closet, her mind was no longer her own.
Patty Hearst: I couldn't even think thoughts for myself anymore because I had been so programmed.
According to Patty, all of her taped communiqués were scripted and delivered under duress. Remember that moving tribute to her supposed lover-- Cujo?
Patty Hearst: Neither Cujo or I had ever loved an individual the way we loved each other.
In court, she disavowed that as well.
Patty Hearst: He was just as bad as any of the rest of them and, and I think it's insulting to anyone who's ever been raped to suggest that that could turn into a seduction and love affair afterward. It's outrageous.
In the end, the jury didn't buy the brainwashing defense and after a two-month trial, Patty was convicted of bank robbery. The guilty verdict dominated headlines around the world.
In 1997, she told Dateline that her conviction had more to do with the times than with the crimes.
Patty Hearst: So much anger directed at me because of the war, Watergate, the whole 60's generation that had disappointed their parents so badly. I wouldn't even be charged today because people don't charge kidnap victims for crimes they committed while in the company of their kidnappers.
After serving 22 months of a seven-year sentence, President Jimmy Carter commuted patty's sentence in 1979. For Patty, that felt like an exoneration.
Patty married her bodyguard, Bernard Shaw, shortly after her release. They settled in Connecticut and raised two daughters. In 2001, Patty received a presidential pardon for crimes committed by her alter ego, Tania.
Patty Hearst: It's part of my life and I realize that there will always be a curiosity about it. You know, with Patricia Hearst, "kidnapped newspaper heiress" will always come before that name.
In 2002, remaining members of the SLA were reunited in a Sacramento courtroom, charged with the murder of Myrna Opsahl. Some had already served prison terms and rebuilt their lives. Others like Kathy Soliah had spent decades living under assumed names before being apprehended. All pleaded guilty to second degree murder in exchange for reduced sentences.
The last SLA member was released from jail this past spring---formally closing the book on a band of domestic terrorists who captured the nation's attention 35 years ago. Video: Archival news report on the SLA
Howard Kohn: Except for the fact that they kidnapped a newspaper heiress, they would probably just be remembered as these thugs--misguided white suburbanite kids who killed a superintendent of schools.
Blackburn: I basically don't think about them anymore. The only exception to that is that Marcus is always with me. I think about him a lot.
Tom Matthews, the teenager who spent a night riding around with America's most-wanted fugitive, is today a grandfather. He married his high school girlfriend and moved to Kansas.
Josh Mankiewicz: Would you like to see Patty again?
Tom Matthews: I would definitely like to see Patty again someday.
Josh Mankiewicz: And say what?
Tom Matthews: I don't even know exactly where the conversation would go, but I would just like to sit down and meet with her and kinda see what her thoughts were-- it was, you know, a big piece of history.
It is the history of a time--not so long ago--when a band of domestic terrorists used guns and guts to attract the world’s attention, only to discover they had nothing to say that anyone else wanted to hear.
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