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Who Killed Betsy?: Uncovering Penn State…

Who Killed Betsy?: Uncovering Penn State University's Most Notorious…

by Mr. Derek Sherwood

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I was particularly interested in reading this account relating to the unsolved 1969 murder of Betsy Aardsma in Pattee Library at Penn State University since I was a librarian there at the time of the murder although I was out-of-town on the day the murder was committed.

Mr. Sherwood worked three years on solving the murder. However, now, approximately 40 years after the murder, there are new resources including the internet. Mr. Sherwood was able to receive some very pertinent information, including an account from a cousin of the probable murderer, via e-mail. Moreover, two other individuals had researched the murder in the past several decades; Mr. Sherwood had access to their findings.

Mr. Sherwood reviews the actions of university staff and officials and the police investigation of the murder, and provides analysis of what went wrong. He also discusses in some detail various suspects, and evaluates why each one might have been the murderer, or, more often, why he was probably not. Much of the book is devoted to Rick Haefner, whom Mr. Sherwood suspects is the murderer. In four chapters, Mr. Sherwood traces the life of Haefner from 1965 until his death in 2002.

Especially in light of the recent Jerry Sandusky case (which came to light after this book was published), it is interesting to read about the lack of reporting about the possible connection of Haefner to the Aardsma murder. In the mid-1970s, Lauren Wright, a faculty member whom Haefner had visited the night of the murder, told Charles Hosler, the Dean of the Mineral Sciences Department, about his suspicions that Haefner was involved. Hosler told the University attorney, Delbert J. McQuaide, who apparently did nothing further with the information (p. 170-171).

Occasionally, Mr. Sherwood delves too much into a topic not really relevant to the Aardsma murder. One theory for the reason of Betsy’s murder was that she witnessed a homosexual act in the stacks. However, Mr. Sherwood spends approximately 5 pages on the Joe Acanfora case, which concerns a homosexual who explicately stated his sexual orientation and as a result had trouble getting teaching certification in Pennsylvania; this case was not directly related to the Aardsma case.

Mr. Sherwood has done a large amount of research on the Aardsma murder, and probably has correctly identified the murderer. He states “After everything that has come to light about Richard Haefner, it is easy to see that he could have, and most likely did, murder Betsy Aardsma that day in the Penn State Pattee Library” (p. 220). However, unfortunately, the book is rather poorly written. Also, an index would have been helpful. ( )
  sallylou61 | Apr 6, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0615498116, Paperback)

On November 28th, 1969, Betsy Ruth Aardsma was murdered inside Penn State University's Pattee Library, by an unknown assailant. Thousands of students were interviewed, but no suspects were produced by the police investigation. 41 years later, the case remains unsolved. This book explores the turbulent environment of the late 1960s at Penn State, along with the details, the suspects, and the reasons behind why the killer was able to escape justice for so long, as well as revealing the main individual now suspected in the murder -- a Penn State University graduate student named Richard Charles Haefner who was uncovered by the author and another researcher during their time spent looking into the case.

Critical Praise for Who Killed Betsy?"

"Who Killed Betsy is an essential read for any Penn Stater. The descriptive narratives coupled with the intensive investigative steps taken by the author combine to provide a unique glimpse into the life of Betsy Aardsma, into the life of a Penn State student in the 1960s, and behind the mind of her suspected killer. Whether you agree with the author's findings or not, the book will give you insight into a piece of Penn State history like you've never seen it before."  -- Eric Weiss, OnwardState.com

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:53 -0400)

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