The Story of a Bay Area Family Caught Up in the Turbulent 1970s: How a Murder Connected Them to Patty Hearst's Kidnapping, San Quentin and an Attempted Presidential Assassination (2023)

Although she has lived in Tiburon for over half a century, Lee Darby still fondly remembers her childhood growing up in Menlo Park – not just because it was idyllic, but because it carries cherished memories of her younger sister, Sally Voye. “Sally and I were only one year apart, so we did everything together — Girl Scouts, riding our bikes to school, all of that,” she says. These recollections make up the start of Darby’s recently published book, Stars in Our Eyes, 40 years in the making, which recounts her sister’s life and attempts to unravel the series of complicated events leading up to her death.

A Desire to Make a Difference

The Story of a Bay Area Family Caught Up in the Turbulent 1970s: How a Murder Connected Them to Patty Hearst's Kidnapping, San Quentin and an Attempted Presidential Assassination (1)

Darby and Voye came of age in the mid-1970s. While the Bay Area famously gave rise to the hippie movement in the 1960s, with its rejection of violence and peaceful protests, in the 1970s, counterculture had evolved into more radical forms of resistance. The Bay Area was ruled by political groups, many of which originated out of San Quentin State Prison — groups battling against racism, the status quo and sometimes, with each other. The most famous of them was the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), the group that kidnapped Patty Hearst about a year before Voye was killed.

Darby recalls her sister as being idealistic and wildly passionate about making a difference. The San Francisco Chronicle would later publish a description of her from a roommate at UC Santa Barbara: “She was sort of a not-political idealist, a good person — the kind more of us should be like.” Voye went on to get a teaching credential from UC Berkeley, and as soon as she graduated, she began volunteering with a literacy program at San Quentin. “When she went to Berkeley things kind of changed,” Darby says. “She became aware that she was a privileged person, and she wanted to help the disadvantaged.”

This experience would change Voye’s life. At San Quentin she met the leader of the United Prisoner’s Union, Wilbert “Popeye” Jackson. “Popeye wanted to improve the conditions at the prison, including better food, better medical care and better visitor facilities,” Darby explains. But he was involved in a lot more than that.

Wilbert“Popeye” Jackson, and the Kidnapping of Patty Hearst

The Story of a Bay Area Family Caught Up in the Turbulent 1970s: How a Murder Connected Them to Patty Hearst's Kidnapping, San Quentin and an Attempted Presidential Assassination (2)

Although Popeye had spent much of his life in jail when he met Voye, he had been out of prison for a few years and was expecting a child. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Popeye’s jail sentences seemed to be for minor infractions, writing: “He was arrested on charges of heroin and marijuana possession… but was acquitted after a jury trial… he was again arrested on a misdemeanor charge of ‘interfering with a police officer in the performance of his duty.’”

While researching her book, Darby spent time trying to uncover more about her sister’s relationship with the prison activist. “I began to see what must have drawn Sally to him when I read that in April 1974, the ‘charismatic’ Popeye went to a parole hearing at San Quentin and ‘150 supporters marched in the rain’ outside the prison walls… he could draw a crowd, he had charisma… he had achieved a certain status.”

The United Prisoner’s Union that Popeye headed up had been associated with George Jackson, a former inmate at San Quentin, also a Black Panther and one of the Soledad Brothers, famous for their 1970 uprising against the conditions at Soledad State Prison. George’s brother Jonathan Jackson would later storm the Marin County Civic Center in an attempt to secure his brother’s release, an incident also connected with Angela Davis, the legendary activist who is a professor at UC Santa Cruz.

In 1974, Popeye was instrumental in the negotiations that took place in the Patty Hearst kidnapping by the Symbionese Liberation Army. Following Patty’s capture, the SLA demanded a $4 million ransom to be paid in the form of a food program benefiting the Bay Area’s poor, called The People in Need program. Patty’s father, Randolph Hearst, the chairman of the board at Hearst, which owned the San Francisco Examiner, needed a liaison during the negotiation process. The negotiations were being handled by the FBI and the San Francisco Police Department, but the SLA wanted nothing to do with the authorities, so to orchestrate the negotiations they relied on Popeye, who was an influential member of the coalition of groups organizing the giveaways, and had managed to create a rapport with the newspaper magnate.

The People in Need program was a massive undertaking that involved distributing food to people across the Bay Area. A woman named Sarah Jane Moore was put in charge of setting up distribution centers in San Francisco and Oakland. “She made a mess of it,” Darby explains. “It was chaos at the giveaway stations:People were running off with the money and overinflating prices, and many were getting mugged.”

Then things truly began to unravel. A radical herself and rumored informant, Moore became unhinged. Less than three weeks before, a follower of Charles Manson had attempted to shoot President Gerald Ford when he visited Sacramento. Now, when the president arrived in Union Square to give a speech, Moore decided to make her own assassination attempt, which was thwarted when a bystander tackled her. When she was asked later why she did this, her answer was, “well, everyone was talking about it.”

A Tragedy in the Mission

The Story of a Bay Area Family Caught Up in the Turbulent 1970s: How a Murder Connected Them to Patty Hearst's Kidnapping, San Quentin and an Attempted Presidential Assassination (3)

It was in this climate that Voye volunteered at San Quentin. On June 8, 1975, she drove Popeye home from a fundraising party. The car was parked on a small side street in the Mission District in San Francisco. “They were sitting in her car chatting in front of his apartment on Albion Street and someone came up and just emptied their gun,” Darby says.

What happened next was a media frenzy. It eventually came to light that the hit was ordered by a rival gang, Tribal Thumb, though the motivations weren’t entirely clear. Rumors flew and rival gangs made different claims about why the hit happened.

The SLA even put out a statement in support of Popeye after his death: “We have long considered Popeye to be a friend and comrade. We support his work in the prison movement and his outspoken stance in supporting guerrilla fighters.”

A flurry of contradictory stories surfaced in the papers in the following weeks. First, the New World Liberation Front claimed responsibility, then, according to an article in The New York Times, they claimed that they didn’t, as, “A few days before the killing, the New World group purportedly sent a letter to a local radio station attacking Mr. Jackson… for wearing flamboyant clothes and driving a Cadillac and hinted that he was a police informer.”

Other rumors claimed there were actually two shooters, that the Aryan Brotherhood was responsible and, most importantly, that Voye could have herself been an informant — an article in Playboy even made this accusation. Darby empathetically denies this, and says disproving the allegation was part of what inspired her write her book. “There was no way she was an informant,” Darby says. “She was trying to help to help rehabilitate people. The United Prisoners Union’s focus was to improve conditions at the prison.”

Darby’s theory as to what happened is that the rival group, Tribal Thumb, was unhappy because Popeye got all the press attention. “There were many different groups at the time,” she explains. “All these people weighed in on it — first they would say they were snitches, and then somebody else said they weren’t snitches. Every day there was something new in the newspaper, and it was it was really upsetting. We were beyond horrified that that her name was being dragged through the mud.”

Honoring Her Sister’s Memory

The Story of a Bay Area Family Caught Up in the Turbulent 1970s: How a Murder Connected Them to Patty Hearst's Kidnapping, San Quentin and an Attempted Presidential Assassination (4)

Voye was passionate about her social work. Having grown up during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, she was particularly committed to helping the Black community. “I remember when she was still in Berkeley and she got burgled and called me up in tears,” Darby says. “She was just furious, but not at the burglars — I think there were two Black youths that were seen running down her driveway — but that the government couldn’t do enough to help Black people. Today, she would certainly be carrying a Black Lives Matter placard. She would be pleased at the progress that’s been made, but there’s still a long way to go.”

Darby wrote Star in our Eyes to honor the memory of her sister, who believed so strongly in equality.Years after the incident, Darby gave back in her own small way by working at San Quentin prison. “I felt like I played a small role in in furthering her goals,” she says. “I was a construction manager on a five-story $30 million healthcare facility built there, which included medical, mental health and dental care. It just kind of closed that circle. I still wonder if she would have thought that was enough.” Darby answers her own question in her book. “[She would have wanted] better food, more childcare, improved visitor areas, a solution to overcrowding… I think I know the answer because I know the truth. She wanted to make a difference.”

The Story of a Bay Area Family Caught Up in the Turbulent 1970s: How a Murder Connected Them to Patty Hearst's Kidnapping, San Quentin and an Attempted Presidential Assassination (5)

Jessica Gliddonis the Group Digital Content Manager for Marin Magazine. An international writer and editor, she has worked on publications in the UK, Dubai and Cape Town. She is a graduate ofUC Santa Cruz, and is the former editor of Abu Dhabi’s airline magazine,Etihad Inflight. When she’s not checking out the latest exhibit atSFMOMAor searching out the best places to eat and drink near her home in San Francisco, she volunteers at theMarine Mammal Centerin Sausalito.

FAQs

What really happened to Patty Hearst? ›

Hearst was tried and convicted in March 1976 for bank robbery and felonious use of firearms. Sentenced to seven years, she spent the next three years partly in prison and partly at liberty (during appeals). She was released in February 1979 after U.S. Pres. Jimmy Carter commuted her sentence.

How is Patty Hearst related to William Randolph Hearst? ›

To get the country's attention, primarily. Hearst was from a wealthy, powerful family; her grandfather was the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst.

What was Patty Hearst charged with? ›

In 1976, she was convicted for the crime of bank robbery and sentenced to 35 years in prison, later reduced to 7 years. Her sentence was commuted by President Jimmy Carter, and she was later pardoned by President Bill Clinton.

What bank did Patty Hearst Rob? ›

Five members of the SLA entered the Sunset branch of the Hibernia Bank in San Francisco on April 15, 1974, holding it up at gunpoint. Taking center stage in the bank was Hearst. The group made off with more than $10,000. Two passersby were shot and wounded.

Who Was Patty Hearst's father? ›

Randolph Apperson Hearst (December 2, 1915 – December 18, 2000) was the fourth and last surviving son of the five sons of William Randolph Hearst and Millicent Hearst. His twin brother, David, died in 1986. Randolph is the father of Patty Hearst.

Is Patty Hearst still alive today? ›

Now, Mrs. Hearst-Shaw lives in New York and Connecticut with her former bodyguard husband, Bernard Shaw and their two daughters. Bernard Shaw is now the head of security for the Hearst Corporation.

Why was Patty Hearst targeted? ›

Patty Hearst was targeted because of her family and its fortune. Her grandfather, powerful newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, was the basis of the main character in the film "Citizen Kane."

How did they catch Patty Hearst? ›

The SLA began releasing audiotapes demanding money and food in exchange for Hearst's release. In April 1974, the SLA released a tape in which Hearst claimed to have joined the SLA's fight against the U.S. government herself. Days later, Hearst was caught on camera participating in a bank robbery with the SLA.

Why was Patty Hearst released? ›

Patricia Campbell Hearst, a granddaughter of the legendary publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, is released on bail pending the appeal of her conviction for participating in a 1974 San Francisco bank robbery that was caught on camera.

How did Hearst lose his money? ›

Hearst's publication reached a peak circulation of 20 million readers a day in the mid-1930s. He poorly managed finances and was so deeply in debt during the Great Depression that most of his assets had to be liquidated in the late 1930s. Hearst managed to keep his newspapers and magazines.

Who is the heir to the Hearst fortune? ›

William Randolph Hearst III (born June 18, 1949) is an American heir, businessman, and philanthropist.

How old is Patty Hearst today? ›

How did the Hurst family make their money? ›

By the 1920s, William Randolph Hearst owned the first nationwide media chain, including properties like the San Francisco Examiner, Harper's Bazaar, the New York Morning Journal, and Good Housekeeping. His empire was notorious for its "yellow journalism," a sensationalist, lurid style of reportage.

What was Patty Hearst defense? ›

BRAINWASHING AS A DEFENSE TO CRIMINAL LIABILITY - PATTY HEARST REVISITED. BRAINWASHING, COERCIVE PERSUASION, DURESS, AND MENTAL INCAPACITY ARE DISCUSSED AS A DEFENSE OF EXCULPATION OR MITIGATION OF CRIMINAL LIABILITY WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF THE TRIAL OF PATTY HEARST (1975).

Who is Patty Hearst daughter? ›

Patty Hearst

Is Patty Hearst married now? ›

Does the Symbionese Liberation Army still exist? ›

The United Federated Forces of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) was a small, American far-left organization active between 1973 and 1975; it claimed to be a vanguard movement.
...
Symbionese Liberation Army
HeadquartersSan Francisco and Los Angeles
Active regionsCalifornia, United States
6 more rows

Who were Patty Hearsts parents? ›

Patty Hearst

Does the Hearst family still use the castle? ›

Morgan died in 1957. The following year, the Hearst family gave the castle and many of its contents to the State of California and the mansion was opened to the public on May 17, 1958. It has since operated as the Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument and attracts about 750,000 visitors annually.

How much is the Hearst ranch worth? ›

“This property is a showpiece, it's kind of the hood ornament on our Mercedes, so to speak,” said Steve Hearst, William Randolph Hearst's great-grandson who now runs the ranch, which is valued at $240 million.

What happened to the SLA members? ›

The following day, police blasted some 5,000 rounds into the SLA's South Central-Los Angeles hideout, which then went up in flames. Six SLA members—DeFreeze, Angela Atwood, Nancy Ling Perry, Willie Wolfe, Patricia Soltysik, and Camilla Hall—were killed.

Who is the kidnapped heiress? ›

A 34-year-old kindergarten teacher and mother of two, and heiress to a multi-billion company was abducted and killed by an ex-convict in Memphis on Friday. Eliza Fletcher's body was found on Monday and identified the next day near the convict's address.

Is Lydia Hearst daughter of Patty Hearst? ›

Lydia Marie Hearst-Shaw (born September 19, 1984) is an American fashion model, actress, socialite, and lifestyle blogger. She is a great-granddaughter of newspaper publisher and politician William Randolph Hearst and a daughter of the author and actress Patty Hearst.

Was Hearst a good person? ›

Without question, Hearst was a revolutionary and innovative leader of his day. He thrived in an era that not only saw great technological advancements but also the Great Depression. Many would describe him as a true Renaissance man, exploring and excelling in many aspects of life.

How many bedrooms does the Hearst Castle have? ›

Covering 68,500 square feet (6,360 square metres), Hearst Castle contains 115 rooms, including 38 bedrooms, more than 40 bathrooms, a theatre, and a beauty salon.

How much is the Hearst family worth? ›

At the time of his death in 1951, William Randolph Hearst's net worth was equal to $30 billion after adjusting for inflation. Early Life and Family: Patricia Campbell Hearst was born in San Francisco, California, on February 20, 1954.
...
Patty Hearst Net Worth.
Net Worth:$50 Million
NationalityUnited States of America
5 more rows

Who is the richest family in the world? ›

For the fourth year in a row, the Waltons top the list of the world's richest families with a net worth of $224.5 billion.

Who is the richest family in the US? ›

Walton family. The Walton family's wealth began when Sam Walton established the first Walmart in 1962. Today, Walmart is the largest retailer in the world with over 12,000 stores.

How much is Hearst Castle worth today? ›

The sale is now finalized at $63.1 million. The 29,000 square-foot, salmon-colored estate has nine bedrooms and 15 bathrooms, a formal living room with a 22-foot arched hand-painted ceiling, a two-story library, an Art Deco nightclub and more.

What does the Hearst family own now? ›

Hearst owns newspapers, magazines, television channels, and television stations, including the San Francisco Chronicle, the Houston Chronicle, Cosmopolitan and Esquire.

What happened to the animals at Hearst Castle? ›

The Dismantling

Many animals were donated to public zoos or sold. Dispersal of the zoo animals extended over more than fifteen years, and it was never entirely completed. Most of the animals had been placed by 1953, two years after Mr. Hearst's death, but many animals were permitted to range free on the ranch.

What is the Stockholm syndrome? ›

Stockholm syndrome is a coping mechanism to a captive or abusive situation. People develop positive feelings toward their captors or abusers over time. This condition applies to situations including child abuse, coach-athlete abuse, relationship abuse and sex trafficking.

How old is Lydia Hearst? ›

How tall is Lydia Hearst? ›

How old is Patricia Hearst now? ›

Is Patty Hearst still married? ›

The former bodyguard of the notorious newspaper heiress died of a longtime cancer battle Wednesday. Patty Hearst's longtime husband Bernard Shaw died on Wednesday.

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