Patty Hearst Has Found Sanctuary in Her Year-Old Marriage to Bernard Shaw
The well-kept block is like scores of others in the San Francisco suburbs. The two-story stucco tract house with its tiny yard is indistinguishable from its neighbor. The young couple who live in it are quiet. The husband has a steady job, and when he goes off to work every day he often leaves his wife puttering in their small garden. The only people who would consider the house remarkable are those who recognize the woman as Patty Hearst.
It was a year ago that Hearst, now 26, and San Francisco police officer Bernard Shaw, 34, walked down the aisle of the redwood-walled chapel on Treasure Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay. This year, to celebrate their April 1 anniversary, they returned to their honeymoon site, the isolated Panamanian island of Contadora. (It's currently home to another sanctuary seeker, the deposed Shah of Iran.)
Nowhere, of course, can the Shaws entirely escape reverberations of the events set in motion Feb. 4, 1974 when radicals calling themselves the "Symbionese Liberation Army" dragged Patty out of the Berkeley apartment she shared with then-fiancé Steven Weed. Patty won't talk about the kidnapping anymore. But the Shaws' house has an elaborate alarm system backed up by Arrow, Patty's longtime pet who is also a 95-pound German shepherd attack dog. And Bernie gently reminds his wife, "You had nightmares for a while when you first came out."
"Out" is for out of prison. Earlier this month Hearst's lawyer, George Martinez, appealed the bank robbery conviction that sent Hearst to jail in 1976 and prompted debate over whether she had been "brainwashed" by her captors into committing crimes. (Her sentence was commuted in 1979 by President Carter, but the original conviction stands.) She served 22½ months—"Newspapers always say I served less than two years of a seven-year sentence," she complains, "as if I hadn't served any time at all." Now, to help clear her name, she is charging that attorney F. Lee Bailey conducted a "disastrous" defense and was involved in a conflict of interest because he had signed a $225,000 contract to write a book about her case. (The book never materialized.)
Until last February 1, one year after she obtained her freedom, Patty had to check in with the chief federal probation officer in San Francisco each month. Or he checked in with her. "Nobody wants me to come to the office," she says. "There are so many weirdos and there's always the potential for violence."
She is still on probation in California for her part in the 1974 shootout at Mel's Sporting Goods store in Los Angeles. Hearst considers her restrictions—she needs court permission to travel outside the state—"silly." But she readily adheres to them because if she didn't, "I could be sitting in prison," she grimaces, "with Emily Harris." (Harris, one of the "Symbionese" leaders, is now in a California state prison serving a 10-years-to-life sentence for kidnapping.)
Last year Hearst worked briefly as a dog trainer, teaching beagles how to sniff out termites. Now, on the probation form she sends in monthly, where it asks, "Are you working?" she checks "no." "The form asks why," relates Patty, "and I say, 'Because I don't want to' or 'I don't have to.' I'm really busy as it is." Most mornings she rides on her 10-year-old gelding, Ol' Paint. "It really clears my mind," says Patty. "I get up early and get back by noon." Her wealthy publisher dad, Randolph Hearst, was legally separated from her mother, Catherine, last year, but lives only three hours away and may buy a horse so he can ride with his daughter. Patty often visits her mother in her new home in Beverly Hills.
The rest of Patty's time is divided between housekeeping and volunteer work as the fund-raising co-chairman of a child-care center for kids with working mothers in South San Francisco. It is staffed by the elderly and dedicated to the late Rep. Leo J. Ryan. He was an early supporter of the drive to free Patty from prison, and his murder in Guyana by Peoples Temple fanatics may have sped her release. "It wasn't until the Jonestown massacre that people really began believing in brainwashing," explains Bernie.
The congenial Shaw, a Bay Area fireman's son, is in his 11th year as a San Francisco cop and expects a promotion to sergeant later this spring. The divorced father of two (his children live nearby and he and Patty see them regularly), he will get his B.A. next year and may teach criminology in junior college. Patty wears a replica of Bernie's police badge around her neck, plus his Army dog tags, now gold-plated. On her left hand is a 3.4-carat diamond wedding ring that "I just finished paying for," laughs her husband.
They met the day after Patty was released on $1.5 million bail in November 1976. She was celebrating her freedom at San Francisco's Top of the Mark with her friend, former U.S. marshal Janey Jimenez. Shaw was just one of a squad of moonlighting off-duty policemen hired by the Hearst family to protect Patty. They began dating the following year. She had found it impossible to discuss her traumatic experiences with other men. "They didn't understand," she said. "Bernie did."
They tried to keep the romance secret but failed to reckon with Arrow. "That stupid dog almost gave the whole thing away," remembers Shaw. "He'd come up and lick my hand and no one could understand it." Arrow's point got across when Hearst and Shaw became engaged on Valentine's Day 1978.
Since they married, they've been renovating another small house he bought in the redwoods close to the Pacific. They also escape to pursue Bernie's newest passion, hunting. Patty goes along as "driver and eagle-eyed gun-bearer," reports Bernie. He recently shot a 550-pound wild pig and is having the head mounted. "He wants to take down my portrait in the living room," Patty teases, "and replace it with that."
There are no immediate plans to turn one of the three extra bedrooms in the main Shaw house into a nursery, "but we hope to have children in the future," notes Bernie. When the time comes, Shaw may reconsider a promise he made when the President commuted Patty's sentence. "Our first son," joked Shaw, "is going to be named Jimmy Carter Shaw." Patty favors Reagan (although, as a convicted felon, she can't vote).
Patty—who, surprisingly, prefers to use her maiden name—says the biggest adjustment to married life has been getting used to "being called Mrs. Shaw. It sounds really strange," she says. When the Shaws entertain, it's usually for family and close friends like Father Ted Dumke, the Episcopal priest who led the "Free Patty" movement.
Patty, who worked in the kitchen at Pleasanton (Calif.) prison, is a "fabulous cook," according to Bernie, who says she routinely prepares dinner for 12 people—goose with wild boar stuffing for Christmas. "I don't see how she does it," says Shaw, then reflects: "I guess after all she's been through, that kind of event is nothing."
On Newsstands Now
- Amy Robach: 'I'm Lucky to Be Alive'
- Paul Walker: Inside His Tragic Death
- Julia Roberts: Choosing Family Over Hollywood
Pick up your copy on newsstands
Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine