The life of celebrities is charmed: fast cars, designer closets and no spending limits. There are blogs, magazines and television shows all dedicated to following the lives of the rich and famous. Some photographers, otherwise known as paparazzi, spend their days following celebs, all in hopes of getting the perfect pic. As we look on with fascination, it can be hard to remember that they too are simply mortal. What happens when fame becomes grim and that very same fascination with their life turns into a fascination for their death? In this list we will dive into the 15 most scandalous celebrity fatalities, blood and motive included. Some were murdered, others tried for murder, and others only became a celebrity after their untimely death; but one thing they all have in common are the photos that captured their rare moments of mortality.
Warning: This article is not for the faint of heart, the pictures might be disturbing to some viewers. The following includes crime scene photos of some of the most intense crime scenes to ever happen involving Hollywood starlets.
15 Jose Menendez: Guilty Kids?
Though anyone would hardly call anyone of the Menendez clan a “celebrity”, the slaying of Jose and Kitty Menendez gave Jose the fame he wanted all his life. On the night of August 20th, 1989 their son's Erik and Lyle Menendez blew off Jose’s head while he sat on the couch with a 12-gauge shotgun. After shooting Jose they turned the gun on Kitty, running for her life she was shot dead. Jose was a Cuban immigrant who had large success in the entertainment industry, even serving as a high ranking executive at RCA. The LAPD named Lyle and Erik suspects immediately, after watching them buy Rolexes and reportedly even a Ferrari with the money their parents left them. The trial of Erik and Lyle would be the first real widely watched trial on television. The nation watched in horror as the boys recounted being pushed to the edge by years of severe sexual abuse. The allegations were enough to get the boys a mistrial. However, following the very public parade of Los Angeles official’s incompetence during the O.J. Simpson trial, the boys were tried again and this time they were separated and both sentenced to life in prison.
14 Lana Clarkson: “I think I shot her!”
Taking the 15th spot on the list is the infamous murder of Lana Clarkson. On trial for her murder was Grammy winning record producer, Phil Spector. Spector produced for everyone, including John Lennon. However, on the morning of Monday, February 3rd 2003 Phil Spector was surrounded by a different buzz: the whirring of news helicopters above his 33 room mansion and the chatter amongst high priced lawyers. Following a 24 hour alcohol binger, Spector finally ends up at the House of Blues where he meets Lana for the first time. Shortly after Spector and Clarkson arrive to his mansion Spector’s driver recalls hearing gunfire and reports that Spector ran out the back screaming “I think I shot her!” In court Spector would testify it was an accident, saying that the gun went off when Clarkson kissed it. However, at the second trial, prosecutor Alan Jackson would call several women to the witness stand to testify that they too were no stranger to Spector’s need for gun play. The picture above of a beautiful blonde slumped in a red velvet chair with her head blown off would be enough for the jury to send Spector away for 19 years to life.
13 Elizabeth Short: Cut in half
Most of us didn’t know Elizabeth Short before she became the brutally murdered starlet that the press deemed the Black Dahlia. Elizabeth Short relocated from her home in Massachusetts to Los Angeles with the dream of being on the silver screen. She had just begun to get her foot in the door in Hollywood when her life was savagely cut short. On the morning of January 15th, 1947 she was found naked and dumped in Leimert Park, Los Angeles. The actress was drained of all her blood, cut in half and most infamously a permanent ear to ear smile was slashed onto her face with the murder weapon. Though 50 different men and women confessed to her murder, they were all investigated and cleared. Some say the killer had medical training, because of how precisely she was cut. Others say she was a call girl, and it was one of her powerful clients. The LAPD never even came close to an indictment. However, the most chilling piece of evidence the police found? The coroner stated that there was enough evidence to suggest the actress was still alive when she was being sawed in half.
12 Tupac Shakur: Open fire at a red light
Death Row Records hip hop king from Compton, California Tupac Shakur was fatally shot on the night of September 7th, 1996. The rapper was shot twice in the chest, once in the arm and once in the leg. While he was being wheeled into the ambulance an officer asked Pac who did the shooting, it’s rumored that the rapper replied “f**k you.” Earlier that night Pac was watching a Mike Tyson fight at the MGM Grand with his associate Suge Knight. A security camera shows Pac and Suge getting into a fight with another male in the lobby, we would later find out the man was a Crip from Compton who earlier in the year had robbed some associates of Death Row Records. After the fight Pac and Suge went to their room to change and head to Club 662. On the way to the club Pac was hanging out the sun roof when a car pulled up next to him at a red light and opened fire. His fiancée Kidada Jones recounts telling Pac to wear his bulletproof vest that night, he told her he didn’t want to because it was too hot.
11 John Lennon: An autograph for the killer
It’s hard to think of a celebrity murder much more famous than that of the Beatles superstar John Lennon. On the morning of December 8th, 1980 John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono were being photographed for The Rolling Stone cover in their New York apartment. However, unbeknownst to Lennon a mentally ill man from Hawaii was planning to kill him that day. Lennon met Mark David Chapman for the first time the day of his murder, in the picture above captured by Paul Goresh John Lennon is signing Chapman’s copy of Double Fantasy. Mark David Chapman would later return to the Dakota apartments for the second time that day at around 11 pm to murder John Lennon. As John Lennon and Yoko Ono exited from their limousine Chapman fired several hollow point rounds into the singer, he was rushed to Roosevelt Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. In a chilling statement in court, Chapman chimes in that Lennon was not the only person he planned to kill. The next night Chapman had front row tickets to The Elephant Man, a Broadway play where David Bowie would make an appearance. Bowie was the second person on Chapman’s list.
10 Kurt Cobain: Suicide or murder?
On April 8th, 1994 Kurt Cobain was found dead in the attic of his Seattle home with a single gunshot wound to the head, deemed a suicide. Forensics dated that Cobain actually died 3 days prior on April 5th. Kurt Cobain, Washington native, was the singer of the 90’s super group Nirvana. Cobain was said to be a moody Pisces who had battled chronic stomach pain and a severe heroin addiction. However, he was a creative genius, writing hit after hit for Nirvana. Though ruled a suicide, Courtney Love is rumored to be the one responsible. There was chatter that Cobain had asked Love for a divorce. Things we do know for sure, however, are Cobain was found with 3 times the lethal dose of heroin in his body. Cobain’s finger prints were not found on his infamous suicide note or the pen used to write it. There were four prints on the gun Cobain had supposedly used, but none were useable. Finally, the most disturbing thing about Cobain’s death? His supposed suicide note was put on a crop top and sold at Urban Outfitters.
9 John F. Kennedy: Jackie Kennedy scrambling to get out
Finally, sitting at number 9 on the list is the most famous murder of all time, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. As our beloved 35th president entered his motorcade in Dallas, Texas he had no idea that that morning he fastened his flag pin to his navy blue suit for the very last time. On November 22nd, 1963 Kennedy rode through Dealy Plaza. As Kennedy waved to the crowd, being led by his security detail past the Texas School Book Depository building shots rang out. Kennedy’s head first snapped backward then exploded. The assailant was later named to be communist sympathizer, Lee Harvey Oswald. The Warren Commission would rule that a single bullet pierced Kennedy’s back, exited through his neck and then also managed to pierce the wrist of Director Connally sitting in front of Kennedy. The photo above shows Jackie Kennedy scrambling out of the motorcade in her infamous pink Chanel suit. An eerie photo because according to official reports Jackie would have been scrambling toward the gunfire. In Kennedy’s final moments Nellie Connally turned and said to him “Mr. President you can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you.” President Kennedy’s last words were “no, you certainly can’t.”
8 Notorious B.I.G.: Mystery shooter
Before Big’s infamous green GMC had been riddled with bullets, on March 7th, Smalls was an honored presenter at the Soul Train Music Awards in Los Angeles, there he presented an award to Toni Braxton. When he went on stage he got mixed reactions, some cheered but others booed making it clear to Biggie he wasn’t in Brooklyn anymore. The next evening on March 8th Biggie and several other associates including Sean “Puffy” Combs attend an after party thrown by Vibe magazine. Upon leaving the party Smalls and his associates divided themselves into two GMC Suburbans. Big was in his car with 3 other Bad Boy Records and Junior M.A.F.I.A associates on the corner of Wilshire and South Fairfax at a red light when a dark color Impala pulled up to his right and opened fire. Though 4 shots hit Biggie Smalls only the 4th and final shot was fatal. Smalls was reported dead on arrival on March 9th. Reports would later detail that the suspect was in a navy blue suit and a bowtie, leading most to think that the suspect came from the same after party hosted by Vibe Magazine.
7 James Dean: Pronounced dead on arrival
Most of us know James Dean from his iconic roles in films like East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause, far different from the eerie photo above of Dean’s mangled Porsche Spyder thrown into a gully of Route 41. The fatal accident happened at approximately 5:45 pm when James Dean infamously collided head on with a Cal Poly student in a Ford Tudor. The story goes that the Ford Tudor was making a left onto the highway having to cross the lane that Dean was traveling a reported 85 mph in, the driver reported that he didn’t see the Spyder until it was too late. Dean’s neck was snapped from impact and his body was mangled with a barely there pulse when he was rushed to the hospital. He was pronounced dead on arrival. Due to the considerable weight of the car Dean collided with, the Cal Poly student sustained minor injuries consisting only of a bloody nose and a bruised face. The highway is still named in his honor the James Dean Memorial Highway.
6 Gianni Versace: The haunted steps
By the time Gianni Versace was murdered on July 15th, 1997 the silver haired Italian designer had built a fashion empire that was the look of the 90’s. The gold embellishments and the famous Medusa logo graced every runway and stacked up to a half a billion-dollar empire. On the morning of July 15th, 1997 Gianni Versace was returning to his Miami mansion from a walk on Ocean Drive. On his famous Mediterranean style steps, pictured above, he was gunned down by a mentally unstable gay escort on a several month killing spree. The man was Andrew Cunanan. It all started in late April of 1997, he beat a man named Jeffery Trail to death with a claw hammer and left him to be found in David Madson’s loft. Madson was next, found dead with .40 caliber gunshot wounds, stolen from previous victim Jeffery Trail. The 3rd victim was real estate mogul, Lee Miglin, found in a detached garage with his throat slashed. The 4th a man named William Reese, killed simply because Cunanan needed his truck. Finally, Cunanan would flee to Miami where he would make a name for himself by firing 2 rounds into the famous designer’s head.
5 Bonny Lee Bakly: Hired hitman?
Taking spot number 5 is the infamous murder of Bonnie Lee Bakly. The murder of Bonny Lee Bakly took place on the night of May 4th, 2001 outside Studio City’s famous Italian restaurant Vitello’s. Bakly had spent her life trying to achieve fame, setting her sights on dating famous men. First netting Christian Brando, before she met Berretta actor Robert Blake in 1999. Their relationship was plagued with jealousy and infidelity. On the night of her murder after the couple ate at Vitello’s, they returned to his parked car. Blake reported that after arriving at the vehicle, he returned to the restaurant leaving Bonny. Blake claimed the reason he returned was because he forgot his gun. By the time he had made the block and a half walk back to his car, he claimed he saw Bonny slumped in the passenger’s seat covered in blood, shot in the head and shoulder. Rumors had been circulating that Blake had been shopping around for a hitman to kill his wife, he was indicted on charges for her murder shortly after. There were no witnesses and no gunshot residue was found on Blake’s hands. Blake was found not guilty in March of 2005.
4 Robin Williams: Ending his own life
We laughed with Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire, we cried during Dead Poet’s Society. Robin Williams was a man of many accolades but behind the comedic mask there were reports of rampant alcohol and cocaine abuse and severe depression. On the balmy day of August 11th, 2014 the world vibrated with shock as the news broke that Robin Williams committed suicide. The funny man from Flubber was last seen alive the day before at around 10:30 pm. At around 11:45 am the following day his assistant became frantic with worry due to being unable to make contact with Williams on the other side of his locked door after hours of knocking. When the assistant was finally able to get into the room, Williams was slightly suspended in a chair in the closet, hanging from a leather belt tied around his neck. The body was already showing signs of decay, suggesting to investigators that Williams had been dead for several hours. The last picture of Williams is shown above; the actor was being wheeled out of his California mansion under a white sheet. In true capitalist fashion, a spike in sales of movies starring Robin Williams was seen for months after.
3 Michael Jackson: Crime scene and toxicology report
Most of us had never heard the word propofol before the death of Michael Jackson, but it would become a word of grave importance after the star’s murder. Immediately the LAPD noticed red flags, leading to the indictment of his personal physician Conrad Murray. The coroner would report that Jackson’s toxicology report showed unusually high amounts of lorazepam, lidocaine and ephedrine. However, the smoking gun? Propofol. Propofol is a powerful anesthesia used to subdue patients for surgery, and in high quantities is known to cause cardiac arrest. Several empty bottles of propofol littered the star’s bedroom. Other chilling relics are seen in the photo above, such as the oxygen tank positioned next to the mangled bed sheets. However, even more chilling is what we don’t see in the photo. Mentioned previously Jackson’s highest marker on his toxicology report was propofol, though in the crime scene photo there is no evidence of an IV. Since the anesthetic is administered intravenously this suggests someone disposed of whatever was used to administer the propofol before police and paramedics arrived. Conrad Murray was charged and convicted of involuntary manslaughter after the DEA looked into the prescriptions Jackson was allowed by Murray.
2 Sharon Tate: Haunting message
A cult of hippie subordinates all following their leader Charles Manson, would lead to the murder of this beautiful starlet. One night Manson sent his disciples Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Linda Kasabian to “destroy everyone inside” the house on Cielo drive, previously occupied by Terry Melcher. On the morning of August 9th, 1969, Tate and 4 others were found slaughtered. In a car on the driveway, shot 4 times in the chest, was Steven Parent, who had been selling clock radios door to door. Abigail Folger was sprawled out on the lawn with 28 stab wounds. Inside her boyfriend, Wojciech Frykowski was inside in the living room stabbed 51 times and shot twice. Watson later says that Frykowski was awakened by them sneaking in through the window and when he confronted them Watson replied “I am the devil, here to do the devil’s work.” Then in the living room lay a pregnant Sharon Tate, stabbed 16 times with a rope tied around her neck. Jay Sebring lay next to her, shot in the head. Before the murderers left, Manson himself told the girls “leave something witchy.” On the door Linda Kasabian wrote “pig” in Sharon Tate’s blood.
1 Nicole Brown Simpson: Moment that rocked America to its core
At 12:15 am, June 13th, 1994 Nicole Brown Simpson was found lying on her cobble stone driveway at her condo on Bundy drive. Nicole’s throat had been slit so deep she was nearly decapitated. Not far away lie the bloody body of 25-year-old Ron Goldman. Rocking America to its core: her ex-husband, former NFL running back, O.J. Simpson would be charged for the double homicide. Simpson hired a legal dream team consisting of Johnny Cochran, F. Lee Bailey, Alan Dershowitz, Bob Shapiro, Barry Scheck and Robert Kardashian. Cochran and his associates would get O.J. an acquittal on the basis that the LAPD was incompetent, disorganized and racist. The nation watched in horror as the CSI’s collected the evidence with no gloves, on video. We listened in shock to a tape of lead detective Mark Fuhrman describe in great detail his disdain for African Americans, using the n-word hundreds of times. Finally, Chris Darden would ask if O.J. would please try on the gloves found at the crime scene, O.J. couldn’t get the gloves past his knuckle. Johnny Cochran would later use this moment in his iconic closing argument with the statement “if the glove does not fit, you must acquit."