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Betsy Aardsma murder

My new book, Murder in the Stacks: Penn State, Betsy Aardsma, and the Killer Who Got Away, was published by Globe Pequot Press in September 2014. It explores the murder of Betsy Aardsma, a 22-year-old Penn State graduate student. She was from my hometown of Holland, Michigan, and was stabbed to death  in Pattee Library on Penn State’s main University Park campus on Nov. 28, 1969.  Her killer fled into the night and was never apprehended, although I will tell you who he most likely was (he’s dead). In fact, I’ll tell you now, because he’s already been outed in news reports over the past three years. Richard C. “Rick” Haefner was his name–he died in 2002–and he was from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Haefner was a geology graduate student at Penn State.

So is there more to tell? Think of my book as you would a book about a Presidential campaign. You know who wins (or loses, in this case), but the interesting part is finding out how it happened. Same with my book. What happened in Pattee Library, why, and how was Haefner after 40 years implicated as the killer? Was there a second man involved? Why were the Pennsylvania State Police unable to solve Betsy’s murder? You will learn all this and more. Truman Capote’s true crime classic, In Cold Blood, was published after the killers of the Clutter family had been arrested, tried, and executed. You know that going in, or should. Yet it is a compelling story that draws you in with the quality of the research and writing.

Here’s a recent Q&A with me about my book. Feel free to pass it around to your Penn State alumni friends.

In the News or Upcoming:

Jan. 29, 2014 – FearNet runs a story about the legend that Betsy Aardsma’s ghost haunts Pattee Library, and ‘borrows’ one of the photos used in my Harrisburg (PA) Patriot-News series on the crime from 2008. I don’t get into this silliness in my book, but like other dubious parts of the story, it has a zombie-like persistence.

Feb. 24, 2014 – Screening of Betsy, a student film about the Aardsma case directed by Tommy Davis, a Penn State film major. Discussion to follow. State Theatre, College Avenue, State College, beginning at 7 p.m. From the trailer, it appears that the film blends interviews with real people with History Channel-like recreated scenes. This event was originally scheduled for Jan. 19, but was postponed the day my Onward State interview appeared, although I’m told that had nothing to do with it.

  1. LARRY S permalink

    I might have some useful insight for you.

    • davidekok permalink

      What can you tell me? E-mail me at, and then we can set up a telephone conversation if necessary. Thanks!

      David DeKok

    • davidekok permalink

      You were an English graduate student at Penn State during the fall of 1969, right? Who taught the English 434 class, Movements in American Literature? How about English 582, Hawthorne and Melville? Betsy was in both, according to her transcript. Thanks.

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  1. 10 Questions With David DeKok, Author of New Book on 1969 Pattee Library Murder - Onward State

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