Among the most tragic of crimes is the murder/suicide. The act of killing oneself is already horrendous enough. Preceding it with murder, in a lot of cases involving innocent family members, makes it that much more appalling. Studies estimate that between 1,000-1,500 murder-suicides happen annually in the United States, normally caused by jealousy, infidelity, depression, or just sheer madness.
Its shocking nature has always made this crime fascinating to the public. Involve a well-known personality and the case becomes even more sensational, like the case of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, which caused quite a stir in December of 2012. Sadly, there are many others.
10. Gig Young and Kim Schmidt
Gig Young was an Academy-award winning actor best known for supporting roles in movies starring Hollywood legends such as Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Clark Gable. He won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1969 for his role in the movie They Shoot Horses…Don’t They?
Young’s later years were marred by alcoholism, causing him to lose several acting roles. His fifth and final marriage, to a German actress named Kim Schmidt, was when everything boiled over. They were married on September 27, 1978, and three weeks later, on October 19, they were found dead in their Manhattan apartment. Young apparently shot his wife and then turned the gun on himself. The motive for the crime has never been established.
9. Edwin and Carolina Valero
Edwin Valero was a professional boxer from Venezuela. He set a then-record by winning his first 18 professional fights via first round knock-out. His crowd-pleasing style of fighting made him a household name in his home country and in 2009, he was signed by Top Rank Promotions with the intent of eventually pitting him against boxing icon Manny Pacquiao.
But while his career was on the upswing, his personal life was crumbling. On March 25, 2010, his wife Carolina was hospitalized for physical assault. Valero was slapped with a restraining order, which he would violate repeatedly, and was sentenced to six months of rehabilitation in a psychiatric hospital. Three weeks later, on April 17, Valero stabbed his wife to death in a hotel in Valencia. In the wee hours of the following morning, he confessed the murder to the hotel receptionist and was arrested shortly afterwards. Perhaps unable to bear the guilt of what he had done, on April 19 Valero committed suicide inside his cell, using his own clothes to hang himself.
They left behind two children, ages eight and five when the tragedy happened. They are now in the custody of their grandmother.
8. Albert Salmi and Roberta Pollock
Albert Salmi was an actor who appeared in episodes of several critically-acclaimed TV shows such Gunsmoke and the Twilight Zone. On April 25, 1964, Salmi married his second wife, Roberta Pollock, with whom he had two daughters. The marriage would last over two decades until the couple separated in early 1990. Roberta would officially file for divorce on February 6 that same year, citing her husband’s alcoholism and many incidents of domestic violence in her supporting affidavit. On April 22, three days before their 26th wedding anniversary, Salmi came in his now ex-wife’s house and shot her twice in the back with a .25-caliber handgun. Later that same day, Salmi committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest with a .45-caliber gun.
According to police report, Salmi had no alcohol in his system at the time of their death, although he was said to be suffering from severe clinical depression in the months leading to the murder-suicide.
7. Justin Levens and Sara McLean
Justin Levens was a former mixed martial artist who fought in several leagues, including the UFC. Levens started his MMA career by winning his first seven professional fights, but would soon begin a downward spiral, losing eight of his next 10 fights, including his last five. Further complicating the problem was the fact that prior to his July 2008 bout, he was suspended by the California Athletic State Commission for testing positive for oxymorphone, a pain-killing medication. Levens’ marriage with his wife Sara McLean also began to be affected by the mounting frustrations from his MMA career.
In November 2008, deputies of the Orange County Sheriff responded to their home at least twice, which included a visit for a possible drug overdose. On December 17 of that year, Levens and his wife were both found dead in their Laguna Niguel home. Based on reports, it was a chest wound that penetrated the heart that killed Sara, while a shot to the head killed Levens. There were no signs of struggle, and a handgun was found near Levens’ body. Evidence suggested that Levens himself was the shooter, and that they had been dead three days after their bodies were discovered.
6. Chris, Nancy, and Daniel Benoit
While there have been a lot of premature deaths in professional wrestling, none compare to the tragedy of the Chris Benoit case. Benoit was a former world champion for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), but two-plus decades of destroying his body came to a screeching halt in the worst possible way. On June 22, 2007, Benoit bound his wife Nancy and killed her via strangulation, pressing a knee to her back as he pulled on a cord to choke her. The next day, Benoit called the WWE to inform them he would not be able to make it to a live event that day, claiming Nancy and his son, Daniel, were suffering from food poisoning.
He would also miss the pay-per-view he was booked to wrestle on the following night, the 24th. It was around this time that he killed 7-year-old Daniel as well, also through suffocation. He left copies of the Bible beside the corpses of both his wife and son before committing suicide by hanging from the pulley of an exercise machine. Posthumous tests of Benoit’s brain revealed that, due to years of drugs and headshots, it was so “severely damaged it resembled the brain of an 85-year old Alzheimer’s patient.”
5. Dorothy Stratten and Paul Snider
Dorothy Stratten was a Canadian model and actress who rose to fame as a Playboy Playmate. She was named Playmate of the Month in August 1979 and Playmate of the Year for 1980.
Stratten was 17 years old in 1977 when she met her future husband Paul Snider, a Vancouver club promoter and pimp. Her career as a Playmate took off after Snider took nude photos of her and sent them to Playboy. Before long, she was able to parlay her success in Playboy into acting roles. In 1980, she landed a role in the Audrey Hepburn movie They All Laughed, where she began an affair with director Peter Bogdanovich. It was also during this time that she separated from her husband. On August 14, 1980, Stratten came to Snider’s house with the intention of offering a cordial divorce. She even brought $1,000, which she planned to give to Snider. But Snider had other plans; he proceeded to rape Stratten before killing her with a 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun. He then abused the corpse afterwards, before committing suicide using the same shotgun.
4. Steve McNair and Sahel Kazemi
Steve McNair was a highly-decorated NFL quarterback who spent most of his career playing for the Tennessee Titans. He was an All-Pro and MVP for 2003, and led the Titans to a Superbowl appearance in 2000. And like his fellow footballer Jovan Belcher, McNair was involved in a murder-suicide case. Unlike Belcher though, he was the victim.
While McNair was still legally married to Mechelle McNair, with whom he had two sons, he began dating 20-year-old Sahel Kazemi. On July 2, 2009, she was caught driving under the influence; McNair bailed her out that same day. When Kazemi was released, she bought a semi-automatic pistol. Two days later, on July 4, both McNair and Kazemi were found dead in the Nashville condominium he was renting. McNair was shot four times, one in each temple and two in the chest. It was believed that he was asleep on the couch when it happened. Kazemi, meanwhile, had one gunshot wound to the head. Tests revealed trace evidence of gunpowder residue on her left hand, confirming that she was the perpetrator. According to the police, the crime may have stemmed from jealousy and financial issues.
3. Gianni Versace and Andrew Cunanan
This is the only entry in this list wherein the perpetrator and the victim were not related in any way. Andrew Cunanan was a spree killer who murdered four people between April and July 1997 before his encounter with Versace. On July 15, 1997, Versace was returning to his Miami mansion from a morning walk when he was shot twice on the head by Cunanan using a .40-caliber pistol. He would be Cunanan’s fifth and final victim in a murder rampage that spanned three months. Eight days later, on July 23, Cunanan committed suicide by shooting himself in the mouth with the same .40-caliber pistol he used in his murders. Authorities were never able to establish the motive for the murder of Versace.
2. Phil Hartman and Brynn Omdahl
Phil Hartman was an Emmy-award winning actor and screenwriter. You may remember him from such TV shows as Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons.
Hartman married his third wife, aspiring actress Brynn Omdahl, in November 1987. Their marriage would produce two children, but it was certainly not without issues. Brynn was reported to have felt intimidated by her husband’s success, while also frustrated that she had not been able to make it on her own. She also had alcohol and narcotics problems which resulted in several stints at rehab.
On the evening of May 27, 1998, Brynn had a heated argument with Hartman, who threatened to leave her if she started doing drugs again. After he went to sleep, at around 3 AM, Brynn shot Hartman three times with a .38-caliber handgun — twice in the head and once on his side. She was intoxicated and high on cocaine when the crime was committed. Brynn then drove to the home of a friend, Ron Douglas, and confessed the murder. They went back to the crime scene, and Douglas subsequently called 911. By the time police arrived, Brynn had locked herself in the bedroom and committed suicide via shooting herself in the head.
1. Judith, Jozsef, and Maria Barsi
Judith Barsi was a child actress in the ’80s, best known for providing the voice of Ducky in The Land Before Time. Born to Hungarian parents, Jozsef and Maria, who immigrated to the United States, Judith first appeared in a TV commercial at the age of 5. She would go on to appear in over 50 commercials, and several movies and TV shows. As Judith’s career flourished, her father became increasingly jealous and paranoid, verbally and physically abusing Judith and her mother. At one point, before Judith left to film Jaws IV, he threatened to cut her throat if she decided not to come back.
In spite of the abuse, Maria refused to completely break up with Jozsef, not wanting to lose the house they were able to purchase through Judith’s earnings. On July 25, 1988, Jozsef shot and killed Maria in the hallway of their house, and then shot Judith in the head while she was asleep. Two days later, he poured gasoline onto their bodies and burnt them, before proceeding to shoot himself in the head with a .32-caliber pistol.
Judith was 10 at the time of her death. Her last completed work, All Dogs Go To Heaven, was released a year later in 1989.