The Tragic Murder-Suicide That Took Phil Hartman’s Talented Life

The "Saturday Night Live" star's own wife shot him while he slept. Why?

Digital Original
The Notorious Attacks of Passion

Phil Hartman was an actor and comedian with a prolific career, famous for his sketches on "Saturday Night Live" and for his voice acting appearances on "The Simpsons" whose life was cut short after his wife killed him in a murder-suicide.

Hartman created the character Pee-wee Herman along with comedian Paul Reubens before becoming a "Simpsons" staple, known for voicing several of the show's characters including actor Troy McClure and lawyer Lionel Hutz. During his eight seasons on "SNL," he did impressions of celebrities like Frank Sinatra, Phil Donahue and Bill Clinton in addition to original characters. He appeared in multiple movies and recorded a number of voice-over roles.

While his career thrived, his personal life was rocky, particularly his relationship with his third wife Brynn, a model and actress, whom he had two children with.

"She had trouble controlling her anger," Steve Small, an attorney who represented Hartman's two previous divorces told the Los Angeles Times in 1998. "Phil said he had to . . . restrain her at times."

He and Brynn had separated on several occasions. She even allegedly threatened to kill one of Phil's former wives, according to a the New York Daily News.

Several of Phil’s friends did not approve did not approve of Brynn, who reportedly had substance use issues, CNN reported.

On May 28, 1998, Brynn's substance use is exactly what is believed to have triggered the couple's murder-suicide. The two got into a debate over her drug usage in the family's million-dollar home in Encino home. The argument turned deadly and Brynn shot her husband.

After Brynn killed Phil,she went to a friend’s home inebriated and distraught, according to a 2014 Salon report. She confessed that she murdered her husband. Then, the concerned friend returned to the Hartman home with Brynn to see for themselves. When they discovered Phil's body the police called 911.

When police arrived at the house, they found the couple’s young children, aged 9 and 6 at the time, unharmed. As they were ushering out the children, Police heard a single shot from a bedroom of the home, CNN reported in 1998.

Phil Hartman

Both Phil and Brynn were then found dead in the couple’s bedroom.

"We know for sure (Brynn Hartman) inflicted her own gunshot wound, and she apparently shot herself as the officers were in the house," Lt. Anthony Alba of the Los Angeles Police Department said at the time. "Mr. Hartman had been dead for a while. He did not die at the same time that Mrs. Hartman apparently killed herself."

The comedy world reeled after the tragedy.

"This is a tragedy in so many ways," Mike Scully, executive producer of "The Simpsons," told the Los Angeles Times. "Phil was just tremendous fun to work with. The minute he said hello, you were laughing."

Related Stories

Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content. 

You May Also Like...
Recommended by Zergnet