Patricia Monique Soltysik was born on May 17, 1950. The daughter of a pharmacist and the third of seven children, she was raised in a middle-class, Roman Catholic family in Goleta, California. After graduating from high school, Soltysik wanted to become a lawyer and enrolled in UC Berkeley on a state academic scholarship. There, she was influenced by the campus’s radical political atmosphere and became an outspoken feminist.
In May 1971 Soltysik began a long, on-again, off-again lesbian relationship with her downstairs neighbor Camilla Hall. That October, Soltysik dropped out of college and developed an affiliation with the radical ex-convict group United Prisoners Union. Continuing to reside in Berkeley, she took a job as a janitor in the city’s public library. In a July 1972 letter to her family, Soltysik announced that she had changed her name to “Mizmoon.” She also told her mother specifically: “Having become a worker, Momma, I’ve started to see how [expletive] over we get by capitalistic employers. Not that other systems don’t exploit their workers too. We just do a super smooth job …” During this period as well, Soltysik became an increasingly frequent abuser of illegal drugs.
In 1973 Soltysik was a founding member of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), an anti-capitalist, pro-socialist terror group based in California. A number of the young radicals whom she had gotten to know through the United Prisoners Union also joined the SLA. Sometime in early ’73, Soltysik and SLA co-founder Donald DeFreeze became lovers. Soltysik also helped DeFreeze create the SLA’s founding documents. On July 27 of that year, she purchased a 12-gauge, sawed-off shotgun under the name “Mizmoon Monique Erlich.”
Soltysik may have been involved in the SLA’s November 1973 murder of Marcus Foster, the first black superintendent of the Oakland, California School District. (For details of that killing and the motivations behind it, click here.) Patricia Hearst, who in 1974 was kidnapped by the SLA and brought into its fold, later testified that Soltysik was one of the two people who had shot and killed Foster.
On April 15, 1974, SLA members Soltysik, Donald DeFreeze, Patricia Hearst, Camilla Hall, and Nancy Ling Perry robbed $10,690 from the Sunset Branch of the Hibernia Bank in San Francisco, at gunpoint. Two men who entered the bank while the robbery was in progress were shot and wounded.
On May 17, 1974, Soltysik was one of six SLA members who were killed in a two-hour shootout with police at the terror group’s hideout in South Central Los Angeles. The others who died were Angela Atwood, Donald DeFreeze, Camilla Hall, Nancy Ling Perry, and William Wolfe.
Further Reading: “Escape from the SLA” (PaulMorantz.com, March 2011); “The SLA Is the CIA” (by Mae Brussell, from The Realist, February 1974); “The Rise and Fall of the Symbionese Liberation Army” (PBS.org); “What Is the Symbionese Liberation Army?” (Slate.com, 1-24-2002).