The Most Infamous Murders in Hollywood History (2024)

Though they are few and far between, several high-profile murders have occurred in Hollywood. These tragic deaths involved celebrities and some up-and-coming stars, and attracted attention of fans and the media.

Celebrities may live rarefied lives, but that doesn’t mean they cannot be touched by tragedy. Murder has occurred in Hollywood more than we may like to acknowledge, and many beloved celebrities we know have met an untimely end in this manner.

Often, some of these tragic murders have even been adapted for Hollywood movies, like Quentin Tarantino’s 2019 movieOnce Upon a Time in Hollywood,starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie. The movie partially explores the lead up to the death of one of the Manson Family Murders’ most high-profile victims, Sharon Tate.

Other Hollywood murders have been adapted to documentaries, igniting decades of speculation and mysteries.

Celebrities either wrapped up in murderous events or victims themselves include Tate, O.J. Simpson, Gianni Versace, and Selena Quintanilla-Pérez — but they are not the only ones. In recent years, YouTuber and The Voice singer Christina Grimmie was tragically shot at point-blank range in a concert in 2016, making for one of the most shocking and violent celebrity deaths of our time.

In most cases, justice has been served and we hope the families of these stars have found peace. But in some especially tragic instances, killers have escaped the justice system and cases have gone cold.

Keep reading to see which other infamous murders shook Hollywood to its core, and what happened to those that took their lives from them.

Keep reading to see which other infamous murders shook Hollywood to its core, and what happened afterward to those that took their lives from them.

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Lana Clarkson

The Most Infamous Murders in Hollywood History (1)

Actress and model Lana Clarkson was tragically murdered by record producer Phil Spector in 2003, at the age of 40.

Spector and Clarkson met in the early hours of February 3, 2003, while she was working at the House of Blues. The pair were driven back to Spector’s mansion and entered while his driver waited outside.

Later that morning, Clarkson’s body was found with a single gunshot wound in her mouth. Spector’s driver claimed Spector had ran from the home shortly before, holding a gun. Spector was found guilty of murder in 2009 and was sentenced to 19 years in prison. He died in 2021.

Rebecca Schaeffer

The Most Infamous Murders in Hollywood History (2)

Rebecca Schaeffer was an up-and-coming actress in the late 1980s, most known for her starring role in the beloved show My Sister Sam.

However, her life was tragically cut short at age 21 by a crazed fan and stalker named Robert Bardo, who had been stalking her for three years. He tracked down her home address and shot her in the chest, while she was awaiting for the script for Pretty Woman.

Bardo was later sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole and after Schaeffer’s death, America’s first anti-stalking laws were passed in 1990.

Linda Sobek

The Most Infamous Murders in Hollywood History (3)

Former NFL cheerleader turned actress and model Linda Sobek had a promising career ahead of her before she was killed at the age of 27.

The day she was reported missing was when she failed to make a costume fitting for her role in Married…With Children. She was missing for eight days in 1995, with her body being discovered buried in Angeles National Forest.

Photographer Charles Rathbun claimed he hit her car accidentally during a photo shoot, then later confessed to killing her amid an argument. He was later convicted of first-degree murder and sexual assault, serving life in prison.

Dominique Dunne

The Most Infamous Murders in Hollywood History (4)

Poltergeist star Dominique Dunne was killed when she was 22, at the hands of her abusive ex-boyfriend, John Thomas Sweeney.

On November 4, 1982, a few weeks after their split, Sweeney arrived at Dunne’s home, and then murdered her during a fight. A jury acquitted John Sweeney of second-degree murder but found him guilty of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to six years in prison but was released after three years.

A 2024 doc accused Sweeney of perpatrating more acts of domestic violence against the mother of his child in 2000 but he was never charged for that accusation.

Christina Grimmie

The Most Infamous Murders in Hollywood History (5)

Back in June 2016, burgeoning popstar, YouTuber and The Voice alum Christina Grimmie was murdered while greeting fans after one of her concerts in in Orlando, FL.

The up-and-coming singer was shot at point-blank range by a man named Kevin James Loibl while she was signing autographs. She was only 22. After the shooting, Loibl was tackled by Grimmie’s brother before getting free and fatally shooting himself.

Natalie Wood

The Most Infamous Murders in Hollywood History (6)

Legendary actress Natalie Wood’s death was never officially declared a murder but the suspicious nature of her death remains a mystery.

The former child star famously starred in films like Miracle on 34th Street and West Side Story, to name a few.

On Nov. 28, 1981, she mysteriously drowned during a weekend boat trip that she attended with her husband Robert Wagner, co-star Christopher Walken, and the boat’s captain Dennis Davern. Her body was discovered floating one mile away from the boat.

Wood’s death was first reported to be an accident but suspicions grew amid conflicting reports about whether Wood and her husband had gotten into an argument that evening and other inconclusive details about her death.

In 2013, two years after the case was reopened, Wood’s cause of death from “accidental drowning” to “drowning and other undetermined factors.” A new coroner’s report showed evidence that she may have been assaulted before her death. No charges have ever been filed.

Sharon Tate

The Most Infamous Murders in Hollywood History (7)

Actor Sharon Tate is perhaps the most famous victim of Charles Manson’s murderous cult, though Manson himself did not kill her. Tate was killed by four of Manson’s followers on Aug. 9, 1969.

At the time, Tate, who best known for her role in Valley of the Dolls, was eight-and-a-half months pregnant with her son with husband and director, Roman Polanski. Polanski was away filming at the time.

On the night of her murder, Manson’s followers invaded Tate’s home and proceeded to shoot her and three of her friends before exiting the premises.

When the murderers were arrested and charged, they claimed the motive for the murders was not the identity of the victims, but rather the house that Tate lived in, which had previously been rented to record producer Terry Melcher, an acquaintance of Manson.

Elizabeth Short, aka ‘The BlackDahlia’

The Most Infamous Murders in Hollywood History (8)

Elizabeth Short’s grisly murder is one of America’s most infamous cold cases. Her killer has never been found.

Elizabeth Short, a young woman hoping to find fame in Hollywood in the immediate years after World War II, sadly became involved in the seedier side of Hollywood in order to make a living.

On the morning of Jan. 15, 1947, Short’s body was discovered in a vacant lot in Leimert Park, LA. Her body was so badly mangled and unrecognizable that the mother who found her thought she was a discarded store mannequin at first. Short’s body had been drained of all its blood, marked with stabs and cuts and her mouth cut open from ear to ear. She had also been disemboweled.

Short’s murder was nicknamed “The Black Dahlia Murder” by the press. It’s thought the name comes in part from the color of Short’s hair in part from the popular noir film released the previous year, The Blue Dahlia.

Nicole Brown

The Most Infamous Murders in Hollywood History (9)

On June 12, 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson, the ex-wife of former NFL star O.J. Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman were found dead with their throats slashed outside her Brentwood condominium.

O.J. quickly became a prime suspect in the case, amid allegations that he was abuse to the mother of two of his kids during their marriage.

Notable moments from the investigation and trial include the LAPD chasing O.J’s white Bronco chase down an LA highway before his arrest and O.J. showing a jury that he could not fit into a glove suspected to be worn by Brown and Goldman’s killer. O.J. was found not guilty of murder in the 1995 criminal trial, one of the most high-profile trials of the century. He was later found liable for their deaths in a civil suit brought by Brown’s and Goldman’s families.

Selena Quintanilla-Pérez

The Most Infamous Murders in Hollywood History (10)

Dubbed the Queen of Tejano, Selena’s achievements including a Grammy, hit albums and a burgeoning career in fashion design. Known professionally as just Selena, Selena Quintanilla-Pérez’s life and career were cut tragically short by her murder.

In March 1995, Selena was shot in the back and killed at age 23 by Yolanda Saldívar. Saldívar, an older woman, was a devoted fan and friend of Selena’s, managing the singer’s fan club and acting much like an assistant to Selena until the singer’s family discovered Saldívar was stealing from the fan club and fired her.

In the wake of the singer’s murder, then-governor George W. Bush declared her birthday, April 16, Selena Day in the state of Texas.

Biggie Smalls & TupacShakur

The Most Infamous Murders in Hollywood History (11)

The murders of insanely successful rappers Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur shook Hollywood to its core. Long considered rivals within hip-hop, both men rose to fame almost immediately in their careers. They were two of hip-hop’s biggest stars, and yet they were killed in similarly shocking and brutal ways mere months apart. Their deaths struck a blow to the industry, and worse, their murders remain unsolved to this day.

On March 9, 1997, Smalls was shot by a still-unknown assailant in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles. He was 24 years old. Months before Smalls’ death, Shakur was shot and killed under similar circ*mstances. On the night of March 7, 1996, Shakur was headed to a Las Vegas club after attending the Bruce Seldon vs. Mike Tyson boxing match. While stopped at an intersection, Shakur’s car was approached by an unmarked Cadillac from which shots were fired, with four bullets striking and killing Shakur.

Johnny Stompanato

The Most Infamous Murders in Hollywood History (12)

The death of actress Lana Turner’s boyfriend rocked Hollywood in 1958. Turner made her name as a pinup model and later, the star of films like Peyton Place, Imitation of Life and The Postman Always Rings Twice.

In 1957, Turner met low-level mobster Johnny Stompanato. The pair embarked on a whirlwind affair, and soon, Stompanato was deeply enmeshed in Turner’s life and career. When Turner found out about Stompanato’s criminal connections, she broke off the relationship, much to his chagrin. He appeared on the set of the film, Another Time, Another Place, and nearly shot Turner on set (costar Sean Connery intervened and wrestled the gun from Stompanato). When Turner returned to her home in LA, Stompanato showed up yet again. The two began arguing in Turner’s bedroom, and Turner’s teen daughter, Cheryl, feared for her mother’s safety. Grabbing a kitchen knife, Cheryl stabbed and killed Stompanato. The murder was ruled a justifiable homicide.

Dorothy Stratten

The Most Infamous Murders in Hollywood History (13)

Playboy Playmate and emerging actor Dorothy Stratten’s star was just beginning to rise when she was killed at the age of 20. Making a successful transition from Canada to the United States, Stratten was featured in Playboy magazine at the age of 19, and in the span of less than a year, appeared on TV shows like Buck Rogers and Fantasy Island.

Stratten’s killer was her husband, Paul Snider, who she met while she was 19 and living in Canada. Snider, a pimp and low-level criminal, married and then worked to make Stratten a star. Snider became controlling and abusive toward Stratten as her career took off, and eventually, Stratten was contemplating divorce. When she returned to the home she shared with Snider on the afternoon of Aug. 14, 1980, her attempts to ask for a divorce ended tragically. After her body was discovered by a friend of Stratten and Snider’s, the police determined Snider shot and killed Stratten, then raped her corpse before dying by suicide.

John Lennon

The Most Infamous Murders in Hollywood History (14)

The legacy of John Lennon needs no introduction; it would be hard to do it justice in all honesty. One-fourth of The Beatles, Lennon’s career spanned close to three decades, and at that time, he became known as a musician, artist, peaceful protester, eccentric, father and husband.

Lennon was shot and killed on the evening on Dec. 8, 1980, in New York City by Mark David Chapman. Chapman was found at the scene of the crime reading the book Catcher in the Rye, which he claimed acted as his statement in regard to why he shot Lennon. A fan of Lennon’s whose obsession drove him to do the unspeakable, Lennon actually signed a copy of his record Double Fantasy for Chapman hours before he was shot.

Gianni Versace

The Most Infamous Murders in Hollywood History (15)

Gianni Versace was, for those who haven’t already discerned from the surname, one-half of the iconic Versace fashion house. With his sister, Donatella, Gianni worked in high fashion from the mid-’70s until his death in 1997. While his sister carries the Versace torch, Gianni’s indelible stamp on fashion was cemented long before his murder.

Versace was living in Miami Beach with his partner, Antonio D’Amico, at the time of his death. He was shot on the steps of his Miami mansion while returning from a morning walk where he went to get the morning papers and coffee (a task typically delegated to his assistant. He was shot by spree killer Andrew Cunanan, and the motives still seem to be largely unknown aside from opportunity. Cunanan died by suicide eight days later.

Marvin Gaye

The Most Infamous Murders in Hollywood History (16)

Marvin Gaye’s voice is as legendary as the man himself. A prominent figure in the Motown and soul music scenes of the mid-’60s through the mid-’70s, Gaye’s hits included “What’s Going On?” “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “How Sweet It Is (to Be Loved by You).”

Gaye’s life was cut short by his own father. Gaye had returned home in 1983 to stay with his parents in an attempt to abstain from drug abuse (primarily cocaine). In 1984, Gaye’s father, Marvin Sr., entered Gaye’s bedroom and shot him in the heart, then at point-blank range in the shoulder. Marvin Sr.’s charges were reduced when it was learned he had a brain tumor at the time of the murder and that Gaye himself had cocaine in his system.

Phil Hartman

The Most Infamous Murders in Hollywood History (17)

Comedian Phil Hartman was one of the biggest comedic actors working in the late ’80s and ’90s. Fans will recognize him from his work on Saturday Night Live, where he was a regular cast member from 1985 to 1996. He’s also known for his work on NewsRadio, The Simpsons and the Arnold Schwarzenegger Christmas movie Jingle All the Way.

Sadly, Hartman’s career and life were cut short by his wife of 10 years, Brynn Hartman. Brynn had struggled with drug and alcohol abuse for years, and on the evening on May 27, 1998, she and Hartman were fighting over her addictions. While Brynn had sought treatment, she seemed on the brink of relapse; Hartman threatened to leave her if she began using again. Then early in the morning of May 28, Brynn went into the bedroom where Hartman slept and shot him in the head and the side. She was reportedly under the influence of alcohol and cocaine when she murdered him.

Sal Mineo

The Most Infamous Murders in Hollywood History (18)

Sal Mineo was a rising star in Hollywood in the 1950s. He was perhaps best known for his role as the sensitive teen Plato in Rebel Without a Cause, but he went on to star in hit films like Giant and Planet of the Apes.

After a period of career downturn in the 1960s, Mineo was getting back on his feet by 1976 and found steady work on the stage in San Francisco. He was walking home one evening from rehearsal in ’76 when he was stabbed, seemingly without cause, by Lionel Ray Williams. It’s said that Williams stabbed Mineo only once in the heart, leading to the actor’s death at age 37.

Ronni Chasen

The Most Infamous Murders in Hollywood History (19)

High-powered Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen represented many a well-known celebrity, including actors, directors and composers. Clients included the likes of Michael Douglas, Danny Boyle and Hans Zimmer. Chasen was considered a power player, able to make deals happen and manage her clients in a fastidious manner.

In November 2010, Chasen was driving home from the premiere of client Cher’s latest film, Burlesque. In the very early hours of the morning, while Chasen was at an intersection in the wealthy neighborhood of Beverly Hills, she was shot in an attempted robbery by convicted felon Harold Martin Smith. It’s believed Chasen was the victim of a crime.

The Most Infamous Murders in Hollywood History (2024)
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