Rachel M. Johnson is a lover of all things pop culture. She's been writing about music and entertainment online for years.
Hollywood is viewed as the City of Dreams, and for decades has captivated Americans and fans alike. Those who live in Tinsel Town are highly revered and adored; they are put on a pedestal and seem untouchable. This level of glitz and glamour can be a breeding ground for jealousy, obsessive fans and crazed ex-lovers. Here is a list of some of the most shocking murders that rocked Hollywood and the world.
Dorothy Stratten (1980)
Dorothy Stratten was a Playboy Playmate and aspiring actress, and was named Playmate of the Year in 1980. She had hopes of crossing over into the acting world, and was featured in episodes of Buck Rogers and Fantasy Island. Stratten would also portray the title character in her only starring role, Galaxina. She had met a Vancouver-area club promoter and pimp Paul Snider in 1977, and the two began to date.
Many close to Stratten warned her to cut ties with Snider, concerned over his toxic behavior. The young model then began an affair with Peter Bogdanovich, and eventually separated from Snider after he hired a private investigator. Stratten had been planning to file for divorce, and Snider worried he would lose his "rocket to the moon."
On August 14, 1980 Dorothy arrived to discuss details of their divorce. Snider fatally shot the 20-year-old, and police determined that after he murdered her, he abused and raped her corpse, before turning the shotgun on himself. Snider's roommates found their nude bodies in his bedroom.
John Lennon (1980)
On December 8, 1980 the Beatles icon was shot four times in the back at close range by Mark David Chapman. John and his wife Yoko Ono were standing outside their Manhattan apartment when the attack occurred. Lennon was immediately rushed by police cruiser to the hospital, where the musician was pronounced dead. It was discovered that earlier in the evening, Lennon had autographed a copy of Double Fantasy for Chapman.
The assailant was a crazed fan who had become enraged when Lennon expressed that The Beatles were "more popular than Jesus." Chapman spent months planning the attack, and after shooting the singer he waited patiently on the steps of the apartment for the police to arrive. With him he had a .38-caliber revolver and a copy of the book The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger.
In 1981, Chapman pleaded guilty to the murder of John Lennon and was subsequently sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. On what led him to murder the famous Beatle, Chapman had said, "...there was no feeling towards his son or his wife or himself. I was obsessed on one thing and that was shooting him so that I could be somebody."
Selena Quintanilla-Perez (1995)
Selena Quintanilla was a Mexican-American superstar who was often referred to as the Queen of Tejano music. She was a vivacious entertainer with a stunning voice and kind heart, and quickly became an inspiration to many. Sadly, with such popularity and adoration comes envy. Yolanda Saldivar was a close friend to Selena, and was also the manager of her boutiques and president of her fan club. However, Saldivar became greedy and betrayed Selena's trust, stealing money from the songstress and her family. She was ultimately fired and banned from having any communication with the singer.
On March 31, 1995 Selena agreed to meet with Saldivar in an effort to salvage their friendship. They met privately at a Days Inn motel in Corpus Christi. On the morning of March 31, 1995 Saldivar shot Selena, who was able to identify her shooter before losing consciousness. She was rushed to the hospital but died of cardiac arrest and blood loss. The Tejano singer was only 23.
Yolanda Saldivar surrendered to police after a nine-and-a-half hour standoff in her pick-up truck. In October 1995, a jury convicted her of first-degree murder and she was sentenced to life in prison.
Phil Hartman (1998)
Phil Hartman was a Canadian-American actor and comedian who was best known for his role on Saturday Night Live from 1986-1994. He won a Primetime Emmy Award for his work in 1989, and was a fan favorite. He also made appearances in Jingle All The Way and Small Soldiers. Hartman married model and aspiring actress Brynn Omdahl in 1987, and the couple would go on to have two children together. However, their wedded bliss would be short-lived. Omdahl had a tough time dealing with her husband's success, and soon became dependent on drugs and alcohol.
Omdahl's issues finally consumed her on May 28, 1998. After arguing over her drug use and threatening to leave her if it persisted, Hartman went to bed. At around 3 a.m., Omdahl entered her bedroom and shot her sleeping husband three times: twice in the head and once in the side. The former model had been intoxicated and had recently taken cocaine.
Brynn drove to the home of her friend Ron Douglas and confessed to the killing, although he did not believe her. They would later drive back to Hartman's residence, where Omdahl would call another friend and confess once more. When Douglas saw Hartman's body, he called 911. They escorted the man and the Hartman's two children from the home, during which Omdahl locked herself in the bathroom and committed suicide.
Sharon Tate (1969)
Actress Sharon Tate was a victim of one of the most heinous murders of all time. The Hollywood starlet had appeared in films including The Fearless Vampire Killers and Valley of the Dolls, and was married and expecting a child with director Roman Polanski. Tate was nominated for a Golden Globe Award as "New Star of the Year-Actress" for her performance in Valley of the Dolls.
On August 8, 1969 a 9 month pregnant Tate was at home entertaining friends while her husband was away on business in London. The actress, along with Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, and Abigail Folger were murdered by members of Charles Manson's "family." Their bodies, along with another victim Steve Parent, were found by Tate's housekeeper.
According to the coroner's report, Tate was stabbed 16 times, and the word "PIG" had been written on a door in her blood. She would later be buried with her unborn son in her arms. Though he did not physically commit the slayings, Charles Manson was convicted along with Manson family members Patricia "Katie" Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins, and Tex Watson.
Elizabeth Short: the "Black Dahlia" (1947)
The murder of Elizabeth Short is still one of the most gruesome and horrifying deaths in Hollywood, over 70 years later. On June 15, 1947 the mutilated body of aspiring actress Elizabeth Short was found on the side of the street by a woman out on a stroll with her daughter. Short's body had been sliced into two pieces and was drained of blood, and her face was slashed from the sides of her mouth to her ears. Disturbingly, the young woman was cleaned and "posed" with her legs spread apart.
Over the many decades since this grisly murder, the Los Angeles police department produced a list of over 150 suspects, but yielded no arrests. The circumstances around Short's death and the violent nature of her murder has garnered cultural intrigue, and has become one of the oldest unsolved cases in Los Angeles County.
Rebecca Schaeffer (1989)
Rebecca Schaeffer was a 21-year-old rising star in Hollywood who had made appearances in TV shows like My Sister Sam and in the film The End of Innocence. The young starlet was growing in popularity, and garnered the attention of Robert John Bardo, an obsessive fan. Bardo hounded Schaeffer with fan mail, and even attempted to see her on the set of her show. He began stalking the actress, and became enraged when she did a sex scene for a movie. This infuriated Bardo, who had called her, "another Hollywood wh*re."
Bardo's obsessive behavior took a violent turn when on July 18, 1989 he went to Schaeffer's home. He had hired a private investigator to locate the star's home address. Bardo rang the doorbell and when the actress answered, he shot her at point blank range in the chest. The rising star was pronounced dead 30 minutes after arriving at the hospital.
He would subsequently be tried and convicted of murder, and sentenced to life in prison without parole. This frightening murder led to California changing its law so that you can no longer get private addresses from the DMV.
Gianni Versace (1997)
Gianni Versace is one of the most beloved fashion designers of all time. He was the founder of Versace, an international fashion house, and he also designed costumes for films and theater. He was a designer and close friend to many stars, including Diana, Princess of Wales, Naomi Campbell, and Madonna.
His life was tragically cut short on July 15, 1997 when he was shot and killed outside his Miami Beach home by spree killer Andrew Cunanan. The designer was only 50. The assailant Cunanan had begun a killing spree nearly three months earlier. He had murdered Jeffrey Trail, David Madson (his former lover), Lee Miglin, and William Reese before attacking Versace.
Eight days after killing Versace, the law was closing in on Cunanan. He killed himself on a houseboat with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. No suicide note was left, and his motives remain a mystery.
Nicole Brown Simpson (1994)
The marriage between Nicole Brown Simpson and former NFL player O.J. Simpson was extremely tumultuous, a fact that led to her ultimate decision to file for divorce from the football star in 1992. However, this act did not hinder O.J. from terrorizing and stalking his ex-wife, the mother of his two children. The violent relationship came to a head when Nicole was found murdered at her Brentwood home on June 13, 1994 along with friend Ron Goldman. Suspicion was immediately placed upon Simpson.
The disturbing murder was brutal and was clearly a crime of passion. Brown Simpson was found to have been repeatedly stabbed, so much that she was nearly decapitated. The former NFL star would eventually go on to be indicted for the two murders, and in what had been dubbed the trial of the century, was shockingly found not guilty. Though Simpson was acquitted in 1995, he was found liable for both deaths in a civil suit and was ordered to pay $33.5 million in punitive damages to the families.