Murder of Betty Van Patter

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Betty Van Patter (c.1932 – December 13, 1974) was a bookkeeper who was beaten and murdered by members of the Black Panther Party. She had threatened to make public her discovery that the party doctored its books and had major tax problems.[1][2]


After serving as a bookkeeper for Ramparts magazine, Van Patter became an aide to Panther leader Elaine Brown in 1974, after being introduced to the Party by David Horowitz.[3]

Van Patter went missing on December 13, 1974. Some weeks later, her severely beaten corpse was found on a San Francisco Bay beach. There was insufficient evidence for police to charge anyone with van Patter's death but the Black Panther Party was “almost universally believed to be responsible,” as journalist Frank Browning wrote in 1987.[4] Christopher Hitchens wrote in the Los Angeles Times that: “There is no doubt now, and there was precious little then, of the Panther leadership's complicity in this revolting crime”.[5]

“While it was true that I had come to dislike Betty Van Patter, I had fired her, not killed her,” Brown wrote in 1993. Brown said Van Patter was fired because she was too nosy about the Black Panther Party and was of no benefit to the party.[2]


  1. ^ Coleman, Kate (June 22, 2003). "Just a Pack of Predators". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 27, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Bender, Kristin (January 15, 2007). "Mother's slaying fuels daughter's devotion". Oakland Tribune. Retrieved July 27, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Who killed Betty Van Patter?", December 13, 1999; accessed March 15, 2015.
  4. ^ "The Strange Journey of David Horowitz", Mother Jones Magazine, May 1987, p. 34 (on Google books)
  5. ^ "Left-leaving, left-leaning", Christopher Hitchens, Los Angeles Times, November 16, 2003.