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Every murder is haunting. But these true tales from the City of Dreams have obsessed Americans, sometimes for decades. Here are some of the most shocking, and unforgettable, Hollywood murders.
Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman
It’s the murder that sparked the trial of the century. In June 1994, football legend O.J. Simpson was arrested for the murders of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman, who were stabbed to death in Brentwood, Calif. The high-profile case dragged on, ending with Simpson’s 1995 acquittal. However, in 1997, Simpson was found liable in a wrongful death civil lawsuit brought by Goldman’s family. In 2007, Simpson was convicted in an armed robbery case in Nevada and is currently imprisoned. He is expected to be eligible for parole in late 2017.
In 1997, Christopher Wallace – more commonly known as rapper Notorious B.I.G. – was shot to death in an SUV after leaving a party in Los Angeles. The artist’s death came just six months after rival rapper Tupac Shakur was gunned down in a similar fashion in Las Vegas, causing many to believe the attacks were linked. Many theories surround the deaths of both rappers, but no one has ever been convicted.
On July 18, 1989, Rebecca Schaeffer, who starred on the CBS sitcom, “My Sister Sam,” was murdered in the doorway of her home by a fan who had been stalking her for three years. Robert John Bardo had found Schaeffer’s home address through the DMV. He was sentenced to life in prison. After her death, California laws changed to prevent the DMV from releasing private addresses.
John Thomas Sweeney strangled the Poltergeist actress (far left) in front of her West Hollywood residence in 1982. Reports say Sweeney, an ex of Dunne’s, had routinely abused her, causing her to end their relationship. He choked her in the fatal attack, causing her to slip into a coma. She never regained consciousness and died a few days later at 22.
This unsettling story is one of Hollywood’s most blood-curdling unsolved murders. The body of aspiring actress Elizabeth Short – nicknamed The Black Dahlia – was found battered and completely severed at the waist in 1947. The case turned up many suspects, though none were convicted. It also inspired several retellings in book and film form.
The murder of a model and former Los Angeles Raiders cheerleader haunted the headlines in late 1996. Photographer Charles Rathbun received a life sentence for sexually assaulting and killing the 27-year-old. Rathbun confessed to police and led them to a shallow grave in the Angeles National Forest, where Sobek’s body was recovered.
The tale of the Manson murders haunts generation after generation. Charles Manson and his devoted followers – called the Manson Family – were responsible for the deaths of nine people in the late 1960s. One notably famous victim was actress Sharon Tate.
While driving home from a movie premiere in 2010, publicist Ronni Chasen was shot several times. She lost control of her car, crashed and died at the scene. When police attempted to question a person of interest named Harold Martin Smith, he committed suicide with what police determined was the same gun used to kill Chasen. Though many initially felt the shooting was a personal attack, investigators concluded it was random.
On May 27, 1998, Hartman’s wife, Brynn, reportedly shot the comedian twice while he slept. Police say she confessed to friends following the shooting, claiming a fight with her husband earlier that evening had angered her. When the police arrived to assess the situation, Brynn took her own life.
Though his death didn’t technically occur in Los Angeles, TV actor Crane’s murder is considered a quintessential Hollywood mystery. In late June 1978, the “Hogan’s Heroes” star was found beaten and strangled in his Scottsdale, Ariz. home. At the time, the small police department was ill equipped to tackle a case of this magnitude, and, with little evidence or motive to go on, the case is still officially unsolved.