Synopses & Reviews
On Nov. 28, 1969, Betsy Aardsma, a 22-year-old graduate student in English at Penn State, was stabbed to death in the stacks of Pattee Library at the university’s main campus in State College. For more than forty years, her murder went unsolved, though detectives with the Pennsylvania State Police and local citizens worked tirelessly to find her killer. The mystery was eventually solved—after the death of the murderer. This book will reveal the story behind what has been a scary mystery for generations of Penn State students and explain why the Pennsylvania State Police failed to bring her killer to justice.
More than a simple true crime story, the book weaves together the events, culture, and attitudes of the late 1960s, memorializing Betsy Aardsma and her time and place in history.
"DeKok (The Epidemic), a former investigative reporter noted for his coverage of the Centralia mine fire, turns his attentions to a baffling murder that has haunted Penn State for decades. In 1969, Betsy Aardsma, a graduate student, was murdered in the stacks of Penn State's Pattee Library. Despite years of investigation, the killer was never definitively identified or brought to justice. DeKok reconstructs Aardsma's life and death, sparing no detail in his attempt to provide the full and authoritative story from beginning to end. In the process, he points the finger at one suspect, Richard Haefner, a geology graduate student and secret pedophile with a checkered past and a volatile temper. Though Haefner was never charged with the murder, DeKok follows his subsequent legal troubles, and paints a convincing picture of a man with the means, motive, and opportunity for the murder. DeKok examines other suspects and every other aspect of Aardsma's life, as well as the cultural events influencing the era: 1969, he claims, was the 'long, hot summer of the murder year,' defined by a rash of high-profile murders whose culprits the Coed Killer, the Zodiac Killer, Charles Manson quickly gained tabloid notoriety. The sheer amount of information in the book may be excessive, but it's well written, accessible, and undeniably thorough, making this an exemplary true-crime story. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Murder in the Stacks
is a fascinating and brilliantly detailed crime drama about the unsolved murder of Betsy Aardsma in 1969 at Penn State. Author David DeKok also delves into the societal and political forces that played out during a chaotic time, revealing disturbing patterns that continue even today.”
—Lauri Lebo, author of The Devil in Dover: Dogma v. Darwin in Small-Town America
“David DeKok has burrowed into one of Pennsylvania’s most vexing unsolved crimes and emerged with fresh evidence and a richly detailed portrait of an era of police work long gone. His meticulous research has produced a riveting tale about a murder that has perplexed Penn Staters for nearly a half century, and about the promising young woman who was its victim.”
— Ted Anthony, Penn State graduate, former police reporter, and author of Chasing the Rising Sun: The Journey of an American Song
About the Author
David DeKok is a former investigative reporter for The Patriot-News
in Harrisburg, Pa., where his last big story was a long, two-part series published in December 2008 on the then-unsolved Betsy Aardsma murder. He grew up in Betsy Aardsma’s hometown, Holland, Michigan, and went to the same high school and distinctly remembers reading the story of her murder in the local newspaper. His Holland ties have enabled him to win the trust of Betsy’s closest friends, as well as given him a unique perspective on the Dutch-American world in which she was raised. He is also the author of Fire Underground
and The Epidemic.
He lives in Harrisburg, Pa.