Nine Celebrities Whose Lives Were Touched By Murder

Kelsey Grammer

This is a self-explanatory list with no real purpose except to compile some random trivia, both well-known and little-known. In this case, I'm excluding famous people who have actually been murdered (Phil Hartman, Sal Mineo, etc.), the well-known children of famous people who have been murdered (Sean Lennon, John F. Kennedy Jr., etc.) and, for the most part, famous people who themselves may have murdered (OJ Simpson, Phil Spector, etc.).

  1. Brad Silberling. This Hollywood director (Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events) lost his girlfriend, actress Rebecca Schaeffer, when she was killed by a deranged fan in 1989. His film Moonlight Mile was inspired by his experiences getting over her death.
  2. Dr. Laura Schlessinger. The radio talk show host, known for her blunt advice to screwed-up families as well as her strong right-wing politics, learned that her own estranged mother Yolanda, a recluse, had been murdered – but after the woman's months-old corpse was discovered.
  3. Michael Jordan. The basketball icon's beloved father James, who had recently appeared in an underwear commercial with his son, was shot to death by car thieves while sleeping in his Lexus at a highway rest area.
  4. Bill Cosby. After getting a flat tire, Cosby's son Ennis similarly lost his life in an attempted robbery in Los Angeles. His killer was an unrepentant Russian.
  5. Kelsey Grammer. The Frasier star is plagued by tragedy: his father was murdered in 1968; his sister was raped and murdered in 1975. He also lost two half-brothers who drowned while scuba diving in 1980.
  6. Woody Harrelson. Grammer's erstwhile Cheers costar has a unique connection to murder: instead of losing a family member to it, his own father may have committed one. Charles Harrelson was apparently a professional hit man who had murdered a federal judge in 1978. Though the family denies the crime, he is still serving a life sentence for it as of this writing.
  7. Venus & Serena Williams. In 2003, the tennis superstars' stepsister Yetunde Price was shot in the head, execution-style, in what was called a gang-related killing.
  8. Roman Polanski. Living a life filled with more tragedy than even Kelsey Grammer's, Polanski lost his mother to Nazi concentration camp atrocities, but it was the horrible death of his wife Sharon Tate and their unborn son at the hands of Charles Manson's followers that shocked the world in 1969.
  9. Robert Blake. I end this list with Blake for a special reason. Not only because of the murder of his wife, Bonnie Lee Bakley, which he was charged with (and eventually acquitted of), but because the former child actor (he was one of "Our Gang") rose to prominence in the mid-'60s with his performance as murderer Perry Edward Smith in the acclaimed film In Cold Blood. The murders on which In Cold Blood was based revitalized his career, just as they did Truman Capote's – but I'll talk more about that in my next List of 9, which has a theme similar to this one.