Heiress' life far removed from days of '74 kidnapping
Publishing heiress Patty Hearst's life changed forever when the Symbionese Liberation Army kidnapped her in 1974.
(CNN) -- More than 25 years after her kidnapping, Patty Hearst remains a mystery. She has evolved over the decades, assuming different roles -- heiress, victim, bank robber, actress, author, mother and wife.
Her startling transformations continue to fascinate, but questions linger: Who is the real Patty Hearst? What changed her from an apolitical rich girl into a gun-toting radical and then into a society matron?
Now 47, she is still unable to shake off her past. "It'll never go away. And you know, things can bring it back like it just happened," Hearst told CNN's "Larry King Live" in January.
President Bill Clinton pardoned her this year for a bank robbery conviction, but Hearst soon will have to confront again the strange saga of her kidnapping by a small California band of revolutionaries called the Symbionese Liberation Army, or SLA.
She is expected to be a prosecution witness in an upcoming trial against Sara Jane Olson, an alleged former SLA member turned soccer mom. Olson, who has maintained her innocence, is accused of conspiring to plant bombs under police cars in Los Angeles in 1975. The trial gets under way with pretrial motions April 30.
But perhaps Hearst's most enduring role has been that of a survivor. After her abduction she joined the SLA and remained on the run for more than a year. Once released from prison, she married and started a family.
"She's the privileged child of a privileged family," said Tim Findley, who co-wrote a book on the SLA. "And in a way, ended up being the privileged survivor of a very unprivileged group of crazy radicals."
A sheltered childhood
Long before the 1974 kidnapping, the Hearst name was well-known. Her grandfather, publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst, practically invented tabloid journalism. His story inspired Orson Welles to make the 1941 movie classic "Citizen Kane."
Patricia Campbell Hearst was born February 20, 1954, in San Francisco,
California. The middle of five daughters, she grew up in an "affluent and sheltered environment sublimely self-confident," she said in her 1982 autobiography, "Every Secret Thing."
Her father, Randolph A. Hearst, was chairman of the board of the Hearst Corp., which owns a chain of newspapers, magazines and radio and TV stations. Her mother, Catherine Hearst, was a University of California regent.
Patty Hearst, who prefers to be called Patricia, attended a series of
Catholic schools, earning As and Bs. A young teacher, Steven Weed, tutored her in math at one high school, and eventually the two became lovers.
Graduating from high school a year early, she earned the award of best
student her freshman year at Menlo College, a posh junior college.
After Weed received a graduate fellowship and teaching grant at the
University of California, the two moved into an apartment in Berkeley. Hearst enrolled at Berkeley for her sophomore year, majoring in art history. The 19-year-old became engaged to Weed with plans to marry in summer 1974.
Kidnapping in Berkeley
Hearst's life changed irrevocably on the evening of February 4, 1974. Members of the Berkeley-based group SLA dragged the young heiress screaming at gunpoint from her apartment, threw her into the trunk of a car and drove her to a hideaway south of San Francisco.
"They knock on the door, and next thing I know, there is a kidnapping," Hearst recalled on "Larry King Live." "People are being beaten up, and you know, gunshots."
In exchange for her release, the SLA demanded that two group members be freed who were arrested in the 1973 killing of Marcus Foster, Oakland's first black school superintendent. But authorities refused.
The group then demanded that Hearst's parents give millions of dollars to feed California's poor. The Hearst family and Hearst Foundation responded with about $2 million in food for the Bay area needy, but negotiations broke down when the SLA sought an additional $4 million. Randolph Hearst said he couldn't meet that amount, but the Hearst Corp. did offer to put the money in escrow, dependent on Patty Hearst's release.
The SLA, led by escaped convict Donald DeFreeze, known as General Field Marshal Cinque Mtume, kept Hearst locked in a closet for 57 days, according to her autobiography. She has said she was subjected to radical rantings, abuse and rape.
"Blindfolded, gagged, tied up," Hearst said. "I don't like even talking about it anymore."
Hearst said her confinement was part of the group's brainwashing strategy. "They debilitate you by locking you up," she explained to King in 1988. "You're deprived of sight, light, sleep and food. You depend on them for all information. ... And the dread is just the threat constantly you'll be killed if you don't cooperate."
Reborn as a revolutionary
Cameras recorded Hearst, aka Tania, holding a carbine in the SLA's robbery of a San Francisco bank in April 1974.
Eventually Hearst said she was given an option -- she could become part of the SLA or be killed. She agreed to join and was christened with a new name -- Tania.
A taped "communiqué," one of several messages sent to the media, announced that Hearst had taken up the SLA's cause. She said later that the SLA scripted these recordings and forced her to read them.
"I have been given the choice of one, being released in a safe area, or two, joining 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," she said in a tape that stunned friends and family and raised speculation of coercion.
The tape came with a photo of Hearst in revolutionary gear holding a submachine gun against the background of the SLA's emblem of a seven-headed cobra.
To show off its newest recruit, the SLA targeted a Hibernia Bank branch in San Francisco. The April 15, 1974, heist netted more than $10,000 for the group, which was short on funds. Bank surveillance cameras showed Hearst holding a rifle. Two bystanders were shot.
"I said my name and -- because I was supposed to say my name and make a
speech, but it's all pretty unclear," she told King in January. "And then, Donald DeFreeze shot someone, and then everything went blank. ... My next memory is sitting in the car leaving (the bank)."
As news of the holdup spread, she said in her autobiography, "I sensed that I had, in fact, crossed over some sharp line of demarcation. ... For me, suddenly it became plain: There was no turning back."
U.S. Attorney General William Saxbe labeled the SLA and Hearst as
"common criminals" following the robbery. Under an intense manhunt by authorities, the group headed to Southern California.
A fiery shootout
On May 16, 1974, Hearst sprayed a barrage of gunfire outside a Los Angeles sporting goods store to help free SLA member Bill Harris, detained for shoplifting, and his wife, Emily, who had come to his aid.
"(Hearst) pointed an M-1 carbine and fired the whole clip," FBI agent Charles Bates said in 1988. "And then she took another rifle and shot some more. As I recall, there's about 30 shots, and there were people walking along the sidewalk. ... Thank God she missed them."
Hearst and the Harrises made a getaway in a van. They later ditched it, but a parking ticket inadvertently left behind led police to the SLA's whereabouts.
The following day, May 17, Los Angeles police surrounded a house where most SLA members were holed up. A massive shootout ensued, and the building went up in flames -- shown live on television.
Six SLA members died in a shootout with Los Angeles police in May 1974. Hearst watched the fiery battle on TV.
"The whole world watched long before O.J. Simpson took his ride," Findley said. "This was the first time. And it was overwhelming in terms of what the media did."
Hearst and the Harrises watched the shootout on TV at a motel near Disneyland. Six SLA members were killed in the battle with police, including the group's leader.
"I was convinced there was no way I could come out in the open now, without the police or the FBI gunning me down as they had the others," Hearst said in her autobiography.
The summer following the shootout, Hearst and the Harrises hid out in Pennsylvania and New York. They returned to California after a few months. Hearst's autobiography describes SLA involvement in two more bank robberies in the Sacramento area and the planting of bombs under police cars the following year.
Trial of an 'urban guerrilla'
The FBI finally caught up with Hearst more than 18 months after her kidnapping. She was arrested in San Francisco on September 18, 1975.
Defiant images of a handcuffed Hearst, smiling with the clinched fist of a revolutionary, dominated the news. When asked her occupation during booking and fingerprinting, her response was "urban guerrilla."
Two years exactly after the abduction, the so-called "trial of the century" got under way in federal court in San Francisco. Represented by famed lawyer F. Lee Bailey, Hearst faced charges of armed bank robbery and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony in the Hibernia Bank case. Her defense was brainwashing and fear that she would be killed if she did not participate.
A jury found her guilty on both counts, and Hearst was later sentenced to serve seven years in prison. In a second case involving the store shootout in Los Angeles, Hearst pleaded no contest and received probation.
She had been behind bars nearly two years when President Jimmy Carter commuted her sentence in early 1979.
A new role -- in the movies
Hearst, left, incurs Kathleen Turner's wrath for wearing white shoes after Labor Day in the 1994 movie "Serial Mom."
Just two months out of prison, Hearst married her bodyguard, Bernard Shaw. The couple eventually settled in Connecticut and had two daughters.
Hearst remained out of the spotlight until the release of her autobiography in 1982. "I wrote about it all, because even though there was a trial, not everything that went on was made public," Hearst explained to King in 1988.
She tried her hand at fiction as well. In 1996, she co-authored "Murder at San Simeon," a murder mystery involving her grandfather's famous California estate. She also recently hosted a Travel Channel documentary on the Hearst Castle.
A film version of her memoirs, "Patty Hearst," appeared in 1988 and helped open up a new career. She met cult director John Waters, who asked her to be in a movie.
"The probably initial appeal was the incredible notoriety," Waters said. "But now it's not that at all. Because if it was that I would have used her once."
Hearst has appeared in four Waters movies, "Cry-Baby" (1990), "Serial Mom" (1994), "Pecker" (1998) and "Cecil B. Demented" (2000). In the latter, Hearst plays the mother of a terrorist who helps kidnap a movie star.
New trial to delve into SLA
Hearst is not the only person with SLA connections who has tried acting.
Olson also acted in theater productions in Minnesota before being spotted on "America's Most Wanted." Now a suburban housewife married to a doctor, the former Kathleen Soliah eluded authorities for more than 20 years before her capture in 1999.
Olson's upcoming trial will mean that Hearst will have to relive her SLA days. She has said she has been subpoenaed and expects to testify. But no one knows what she will say.
"I think Patricia Hearst will be a very difficult witness," Findley said. "I don't think Patricia Hearst will answer the right questions even if they're asked. ...
"I think that would be very dangerous for her to do that. And I don't mean physical dangerous, but legally (she) would compromise herself."
Whether or not her testimony raises new questions about the SLA, it will more than likely renew interest in the strange case.
"There's always this fascination with what happened to me," Hearst said in 1994, "and just reconciling myself to the fact that OK, sometimes I can't walk down the street without 50 heads turning."