Murder of Betty Van Patter

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Betty Louise Van Patter (née Floyd; October 12, 1929 – circa December 13, 1974 [body discovered on January 17, 1975, date on gravestone]),[1][2] was a bookkeeper for the Black Panther Party, although she herself was white.

Aged 45, after being missing for five weeks, her body was found. She had been beaten to death. Some sources indicate she had been raped. While no one was ever charged for the crime, many believe it was committed by members of the party. She had reportedly threatened to make public her discovery that the party doctored its books and had major tax problems.[3][4]


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.[5]

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.[6] 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".[7] FBI files investigating van Patter, likely inquiring into her death, have been destroyed.[why?][8]

"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 no longer of use to the party.[4]

Huey Newton (who died in 1989) allegedly confessed to a friend that he had ordered Van Patter's murder, and that Van Patter had been tortured and raped before being killed.[9][10]


  1. ^, U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line], retrieved April 26, 2017
  2. ^, California Birth Index, 1905-1995 [database on-line], retrieved April 26, 2017
  3. ^ Coleman, Kate (June 22, 2003). "Just a Pack of Predators". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  4. ^ a b Bender, Kristin (January 15, 2007). "Mother's slaying fuels daughter's devotion". Oakland Tribune. Retrieved July 27, 2015.
  5. ^ "Who killed Betty Van Patter?", December 13, 1999; accessed March 15, 2015.
  6. ^ "The Strange Journey of David Horowitz", Mother Jones Magazine, May 1987, p. 34 (on Google books)
  7. ^ "Left-leaving, left-leaning", Christopher Hitchens, Los Angeles Times, November 16, 2003.
  8. ^ Leighton, Jared, Betty Louise Van Patter, retrieved April 26, 2017
  9. ^ Kelley, Ken. September 15, 1989. "Huey Newton: I'll Never Forget". East Bay Express, Volume 11, No. 49.
  10. ^ Pearson, Hugh (1994). The Shadow of the Panther: Huey Newton and the Price of Black Power in America. De Capo Press. p. 328. ISBN 0-201-48341-6.