12 Notorious Murder Cases That Tore Hollywood Apart –

When we think of Hollywood, we think of beautiful celebrities, red carpets, flashing lights, money, and movie sets. However, there’s a seedy underbelly to Hollywood that arouses flashes of scandal, corruption, harassment, and blood.

All too often, Tinseltown has been home to a series of grizzly murders that almost tore the city apart. There have been dozens of horrific murder cases that sent the media into a frenzy, put celebrities on edge, and revealed the city to be far more twisted than we ever expected.

Sometimes a massive celebrity is killed in cold blood, and sometimes it’s the celebrity themselves doing the killing. Hollywood’s dalliances in the macabre can be succinctly encapsulated with the infamous quote from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, “We all go a little mad sometimes”.

12. Tupac Shakur

Orion Pictures

Tupac Shakur is a hip-hop legend, and therefore synonymous with music. However, alongside his boundary-crossing stardom, Tupac did indeed appear in a handful of movies and was considered an up-and-comer in Hollywood.

The rapper was infamously shot four times on September 7th, 1996, while sitting at a red light on a Las Vegas street, and died 6 days later from the injuries.

Shakur’s death sent shockwaves throughout the entire world, not just the hip-hop scene. While no-one was charged for the murder, it was assumed to be the result of the intercoastal rap rivalry, of which Tupac and Notorious B.I.G were the figureheads.

The murder reminded stars that nobody was untouchable, and that senseless rivalries often leads to senseless violence.

11. Bob Crane


Bob Crane rose to fame in the 1960’s as part of the World War II sit-com, Hogan’s Heroes. The show ran for six years and Crane became a popular figure as a result. His career following Hogan’s Heroes was middling, to say the least until it abruptly ended with his death in 1978.

On June 29th 1978, Victoria Ann Berry, a co-star of Crane’s, went to his apartment in Scottsdale Arizona after he failed to show up for work. Berry found Crane dead, with his head bludgeoned and an electrical cord tied around his neck.

The Scottsdale Police Department was said to be ill-equipped to deal with such a high-profile murder investigation and, as such, yielded very few clues from the crime scene. That said, they found a variety of tapes Crane had recorded of himself and a friend, John Henry Carpenter’s, sexual encounters with women.

After several back-and-forths, the case was re-opened in 1990 and Crane was arrested two years later. Despite Crane’s son testifying against Carpenter, the evidence was deemed circumstantial and he was acquitted (yet died four years later).

To this day Bob Crane’s murder has gone unsolved and will stay that way. Proving money and fame cannot guarantee justice.

10. Lana Clarkson

Concorde Pictures

Lana Clarkson is a name that likely does not ring any bells. Clarkson was something of a B-Movie actress but she appeared in such hits as Fast Times At Ridgemont High and Scarface.

Sadly, Clarkson’s true claim-to-fame is her untimely death in February 2003. She had been dating record producer Phil Spector, who worked with industry greats like Tina Turner and The Beatles. In two foreboding instances, the Ramones claimed Spector pulled a gun on them during a recording session, and four women made a similar claim in regards to Spector demanding sexual favours.

Clarkson and Spector had been dropped off at his Hollywood home by his driver, Adriano de Souza. Soon after, Spector came running out the back of the house, gun in hand, stating “I think I’ve killed someone”. And indeed, Clarkson had been shot in the mouth and killed. Souza called the police and Spector was arrested.

Amazingly, the 2007 court case was deemed a mistrial, thanks to a hung jury. Two years later the re-trial occurred and Spector was found guilty of second-degree murder, sentenced to 19 years in prison. Perhaps a fitting end for the man who once claimed, “They [women] all deserve a bullet in their head”.

9. Rebecca Schaeffer

People Weekly

The case of little-known actress Rebecca Schaeffer may not be as high-profile as the others on this list, but it tells a chilling tale that no doubt reaffirmed the fears of many celebrities.

Schaeffer was a 21-year-old, who had been acting for a mere five years when she was shot and killed by Robert John Bardo, right on her front doorstep. Bardo was a 19-year-old manic depressive, who had began stalking Schaeffer for three years.

Bardo was outraged when he saw Schaeffer share a bed with a man in the movie, Scenes from the Class Struggles in Beverly Hills. He paid a private detective to find her address, then bought a gun with the help of his older brother.

Bardo drove to Schaeffer’s Los Angeles home, knocked on her door, and had a brief talk in which the actress asked him never to come again. He left, got some breakfast, then returned to her home. This time, when she answered the door, he shot her at point-blank-range in the chest.

Schaeffer died shortly thereafter and Bardo was arrested. This horrifying case is a reminder of the dangers stalkers pose to celebrities, and the need for serious security and privacy.

8. William Desmond Taylor

William D Taylor Productions

William Desmond Taylor was a pioneer of Hollywood from 1913 to 1922. In his relatively short career, Taylor acted in 27 and directed 59 silent films, which included Anne of Green Gables and Huckleberry Finn.

In 1922, at the age of 49, Taylor was found dead in his Los Angeles home. In a baffling side note, a medical examiner arrived at the scene and announced that Taylor had died of a stomach haemorrhage, then left. Shorty thereafter, forensic investigators arrived, and turned over the body to find a bullet hole in Taylor’s back.

Taylor was found with over $1000 (adjusted) in his wallet and rings on his fingers, implying robbery was not the motive. What followed was a media circus attempting to decipher the case, with various celebrities giving questionable interviews. The L.A. Undersheriff went as far as to say, “The industry has been hurt. Stars have been ruined. Stockholders have lost millions of dollars. A lot of people are out of jobs and incensed enough to take a shot at you.”

Despite there being a dozen suspects, no-one was ever charged with the murder due to circumstantial evidence, a disturbed crime scene, and even claims of corruption. A story befitting of Tinseltown.

7. Dorothy Stratten

Crown International Pictures

In British Columbia Canada, 1977, 17-year-old Dorothy Stratten met a 26-year-old local pimp by the name of Paul Snider. The two had been dating for a short while when Snider paid for some professional nude photos of Stratten and sent them to Playboy magazine – even though Stratten was underage.

In 1978, Stratten and Snider moved to L.A., where they married and she became an official Playmate. Hugh Hefner saw huge potential in Stratten and aimed to make her a movie star, as well as Playmate of the Year in 1980. Hefner, and peers, encouraged Stratten to sever ties with Snider but she was reluctant.

Instead, she began having an affair with the director of her first starring role, Peter Bogdanovich. Shortly thereafter, Stratten separated from Snider and moved in with Bogdanovich. She then met with Snider to discuss divorce settlements at his L.A. apartment.

Snider’s roommates returned home and found the two, naked, and dead in his bedroom. Snider had killed Stratten with a shotgun, then shot himself an hour later. The up-and-coming star was murdered at the age of just 20 and Hollywood was rocked.

6. Sal Mineo

Warner Bros.

On February 12th, 1976, Sal Mineo was stabbed through the heart in an alley behind his apartment building. Local pizza deliveryman, Lionel Ray Williams, was found guilty and sentenced to 57 years in prison.

Mineo was a New York actor famous for roles in Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Exodus, and Rebel Without A Cause. Mineo was also bisexual and celebrated as a gay icon following his death.

So what prompted a pizza deliveryman to kill the Oscar-nominated actor? That much has never been revealed. Initially the case went unsolved for two years, by which time Williams was in prison in Michigan for robbery. He was allegedly overheard bragging about killing Sal Mineo, so was transferred to Los Angeles, where he stood trial for said murder. Williams was found guilty of second degree murder. He was paroled in 1990 after eleven years… only to commit robbery and go back to jail.

Mineo was a beloved actor, nominated for an Academy Award, and portrayed the first openly-gay teen in film; yet was said to have been blackballed by a homophobic system in Hollywood. His senseless murder only reaffirmed his status as underappreciated and gone-too-soon.

5. Natalie Wood

United Artists

Alongside James Dean and the previously mentioned Sal Mineo, Natalie Wood made up the famed trilogy of Rebel Without A Cause. All three stars were killed in horrible circumstances, leading to the movie being dubbed as cursed.

Wood had an incredible career in Hollywood, from the 1950’s right through to her death in 1981. She had been married, twice, to fellow actor Robert Wagner, with whom she had a child. Nine years after re-marrying Wagner, the couple, along with Christopher Walken and Dennis Davern, went on a boat ride.

The next morning, authorities found Wood’s body in the ocean, a mile away from the boat. A dinghy was found on a nearby beech, which Wagner and co. claimed she must have taken during the night. Wood was found to have been drunk and on medication when she drowned. Her death was ruled an accidental drowning, despite bruises on her arms and cheek.

30 years later however, Davern, the boat captain, said he lied in the original interview. He claimed Wagner had thrown Wood overboard after catching her flirting with Walken. While Wagner was never charged, the cause of death was changed to reflect the uncertainty. A story befitting of the Rebel curse.

4. Phil Hartman


Hi! This one’s Phil Hartman. You may know him best from his roles in Jingle All The Way, So I Married An Axe Murderer and The Simpsons.

Hartman was an Ontario native who started his career with skits on Pee-Wee Herman, a character he helped create, Cheech & Chong’s Next Movie, and a number of animated shows, including Scooby-Doo.

From there, his career blossomed and he appeared on Saturday Night Live before striking gold with The Simpsons (in which he played Troy McClure and Lionel Hutz), and various movies. Hartman’s career was seemingly really hitting the ground when it came to a crashing halt.

Hartman was married to Brynn Omdahl in the late 80’s, and the pair sired two children. Brynn developed a drug problem during the marriage and, on one fateful night in 1998, Phil told her he would divorce her if she took drugs again. A few hours later Brynn, high on cocaine, grabbed a .38 handgun and shot Hartman twice in the head and once in the side, while he slept.

That same night Brynn shot herself, leaving their two children parentless and Hollywood speechless. A horrible fate for a beloved actor.

3. Nicole Brown Simpson


Nicole Brown Simpson was the wife of O.J. Simpson, a retired football player who had transitioned into acting, and became a household name throughout the 1970’s. The pair were together for seven years, during which time he was arrested and pleaded guilty to abuse. The beatings continued even after the couple divorced in 1992, despite Brown having moved to another home in L.A.

On the morning of June 13, 1994, Brown was found dead outside of her home, along with a waiter by the name of Ron Goldman. Brown had been stabbed seven times in the neck and head, to the point where she was almost decapitated. What followed was the most infamous court case in history, as O.J. Simpson stood trial for the murder of his ex-wife and her lover.

Despite substantial evidence that pointed to Simpson’s guilt, he was acquitted. The world watched with bated breath and the outcome divided America. That wasn’t the end of Simpsons legal troubles however, as he later served 9 years in prison for armed robbery and kidnapping.

Of course, Simpson cashed-in on the scandal with a 2007 book titled, If I Did It but his career never rebounded and doubts over his innocence persist.

2. Elizabeth Short


Elizabeth Short is better known as Black Dahlia, one of the most famous murder victims of all-time.

Short moved to Los Angeles from Boston, with the hopes of becoming a Hollywood starlet. Cliche as that may sound, Short is where the stereotype originated and the reason why so many starlets were warned not to run to Hollywood in search of fame. Short, like so many before and after her, fell victim to empty promises, casting couches, and the darker side of Hollywood.

On the morning of January 15, 1947, Elizabeth Short was found dead, just by the side of the road. Her naked body was cut in half, her intestines removed, her blood drained, and her mouth cut ear-to-ear. She had been murdered, cut, washed, and brought to the location and posed to be found. The killer subsequently mailed letters to L.A. newspapers, taunting them to find him.

750 investigators worked on the case for over a year but it was deemed a cold case. To this day, Short’s murder has gone unsolved and been adapted into various films and books. The story has fascinated people for 70 years, and the tragedy changed Hollywood forever.

1. Sharon Tate


The murder of Sharon Tate is one of the most infamous in world history, and unlike anything heard of in Hollywood before or since.

Tate was a popular up-and-coming actress who married director Roman Polanski in 1986. While eight months pregnant with their first child, Tate and four others were brutally murdered by the Manson family.

The Manson family members were arrested and claimed the identities of the victims were not relevant. Manson himself had been rejected by a record producer who once lived at the same address as Tate and Polanski, and he directed four of his followers to head to the home and murder whoever was inside.

Hollywood was stunned by the murders, as best described by Dominick Dunne in his book, The Way We Lived Then, “The shock waves that went through the town were beyond anything I had ever seen before. People were convinced that the rich and famous of the community were in peril. Children were sent out of town. Guards were hired. Steve McQueen packed a gun when he went to Jay Sebring’s funeral.”

The months and years that followed were shaped by the murders as Hollywood realised no-one was ever truly safe.


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