Murder of Betsy Aardsma

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Betsy Aardsma
Betsy Aardsma1.jpg
School yearbook photograph of Betsy Aardsma
Betsy Ruth Aardsma

(1947-07-11)July 11, 1947
DiedNovember 28, 1969(1969-11-28) (aged 22)
Cause of deathStab wound to the chest
Resting placePilgrim Home Cemetery
EducationHolland High School
Alma materUniversity of Michigan
Pennsylvania State University
OccupationGraduate student

Betsy Ruth Aardsma[1] (/ˈɑːrdzmə/;[2] July 11, 1947 – November 28, 1969) was a 22-year-old American graduate student who was murdered in the "Stacks" area of Pattee Library at the Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) in University Park, Pennsylvania in November 1969. Though Aardsma's murder remains officially unsolved, local investigative reporters and two different authors have published[3] testimony and reports of circumstantial evidence which incriminate Penn State geology professor Richard Haefner.


Betsy Aardsma was the second of four children[4] born in Holland, Michigan to Esther and Richard Aardsma.[1] She attended Holland High School where she graduated with honors. Aardsma then enrolled at the University of Michigan where she studied art and English. Upon graduation, she enrolled at Pennsylvania State University (Penn State). At the time of her death, she was in a relationship with a Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center student named David Wright.[5][6]


Aardsma was at Penn State's Pattee Library on November 28, 1969, doing research for a paper. At some point between 4:45 p.m. and 4:55 p.m. she was stabbed a single time through the left breast with a knife, severing her pulmonary artery and piercing the right ventricle of her heart. Police believe Aardsma was most likely attacked from behind,[7] as her hands bore no defensive wounds. Following the stabbing, Aardsma slumped to the ground. Minutes later, one or two men exited the central region of the library, telling a desk clerk that, "Somebody better help that girl" as they left. The man or men who spoke to the desk clerk have never been identified.

Bystanders rendered first aid, including mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, to Aardsma,[8] and a call was placed to the campus hospital, the Ritenour Health Center, at 5:01 PM. By 5:19 PM, an ambulance had transported Aardsma to the Health Center, where she was pronounced dead a short time later.[8][5]

After Aardsma was stabbed, the wound produced only a small amount of visible blood. Also, Aardsma was wearing a red dress at the time. As result of these two facts, the first responders thought that perhaps she had experienced a seizure or some other medical ailment. It was not until Aardsma was examined at the Health Center that anyone realized that she had been stabbed.[9]

Aardsma's murder remains unsolved, and the Pennsylvania State Police are still actively seeking information on the case.[10]

Author Derek Sherwood and investigative journalist David DeKok each published books incriminating Penn State professor Richard Haefner for Aardsma's murder. Haefner was a respected geologist whose relationship with Aardsma had been terminated by the victim. The professor was widely known for periodic bouts of explosive anger and other erratic behavior, including accusations of pedophilia, the suspected theft of the university's rock collection, and his large number of vindictive lawsuits.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Anthony, Ted (June 23, 1957). "Penn State murder a mystery 20 years later". The Pittsburgh Press. p. A14. Retrieved April 29, 2014.
  2. ^ David DeKok – "Betsy Aardsma"
  3. ^ a b Smart, Gil (August 28, 2011). "2 authors peg Lancaster native as mystery murderer of 19-year-old Penn State student in 1969". Lancaster Online. Retrieved November 20, 2019.
  4. ^ The Partiot News Dec. 7, 2008
  5. ^ a b "Penn State Girl's Death Probed". The Pittsburgh Press. November 29, 1969. p. 2. Retrieved April 29, 2014.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Oct. 31, 2014.
  8. ^ a b "Cries for Help go Unheeded". Daily Collegian. 1969-12-02. Archived from the original on 2014-04-29. Retrieved 2012-12-11.
  9. ^ "After 45 Years, the Unsolved Murder of Betsy Aardsma in Penn State Library Remains a Mystery". Pennsylvania Live. December 1, 2014. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
  10. ^ "Decades later, Penn State library slaying unsolved". Chicago Tribune. 2008-08-02. Retrieved 2008-08-07.[permanent dead link]

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