Betty Van Patter
Betty Louise Floyd

(1929-10-12)October 12, 1929
Diedc. December 13, 1974(1974-12-13) (aged 45)
Cause of deathBeating
Body discoveredJanuary 17, 1975
Known forVictim of unsolved murder

Betty Louise Van Patter (née Floyd; October 12, 1929 – c. December 13, 1974),[1][2] was a bookkeeper for the Black Panther Party, although she herself was white. Van Patter was murdered, a crime which remains unsolved.


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," wrote Frank Browning in 1987. [4] According to other authors, Huey Newton 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.[5][6] Christopher Hitchens wrote in the Los Angeles Times in 2003 that: "There is no doubt now, and there was precious little then, of the Panther leadership's complicity in this revolting crime".[7] "While it was true that I had come to dislike Betty Van Patter, I had fired her, not killed her", Elaine 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.[8]

Disappearance and discovery of body

Van Patter was aged 45 when, after being missing for five weeks, her body was found. She had been beaten to death. Some sources indicate she had been raped.[9] While no one was ever charged for the crime, it has been suggested that 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.[8]

See also


  1. ^, U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line], archived from the original on April 27, 2017, retrieved April 26, 2017
  2. ^, California Birth Index, 1905-1995 [database on-line], retrieved April 26, 2017
  3. ^ "Who killed Betty Van Patter?" Archived 2015-12-22 at the Wayback Machine, December 13, 1999; accessed March 15, 2015.
  4. ^ "The Strange Journey of David Horowitz" Archived 2016-01-28 at the Wayback Machine, Mother Jones Magazine, May 1987, p. 34 (on Google books)
  5. ^ Kelley, Ken. September 15, 1989. "Huey Newton: I'll Never Forget". East Bay Express, Volume 11, No. 49.
  6. ^ Pearson, Hugh (1994). The Shadow of the Panther: Huey Newton and the Price of Black Power in America. Da Capo Press. p. 328. ISBN 0-201-48341-6.
  7. ^ "Left-leaving, left-leaning" Archived 2016-06-30 at the Wayback Machine, Christopher Hitchens, Los Angeles Times, November 16, 2003.
  8. ^ a b Bender, Kristin (January 15, 2007). "Mother's slaying fuels daughter's devotion". Oakland Tribune. Archived from the original on January 10, 2016. Retrieved July 27, 2015.
  9. ^ Wasserman, Steve (2013-06-05). "Rage and Ruin: On the Black Panthers". ISSN 0027-8378. Retrieved 2023-04-01. They didn't just kill her. They kept her hostage, they raped her, they beat her up