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Hollywood is already a land of high drama, where the rumor mill is on 24-hour alert, and “scandal” is almost always the name of the game. Sometimes, that scandal turns deadly. The history of Hollywood is peppered with the murder of starlet by jilted lovers, obsessed friends and random lunatics. Occasionally, there’s an unsolved mystery that seeps into the common consciousness and becomes myth. Between the following tragedies, there’s enough salaciousness for a season of soap opera. Here are ten of the most salacious Hollywood murders ever.
1. Selena Quintanilla-Pérez
Yolanda Saldívar started her career, and role in Selena’s life, as president of the singer’s fan club--she was obsessed with Selena. She would go on to become one of Selena’s closest friends and manager of her boutiques. Yolanda also murdered Selena.
The two began feuding after money went missing from Selena’s businesses, and fans complained about not getting what they signed up for when they joined the fan club. Selena’s father forbade Yoland from contacting Selena when it came to light that she was responsible, but Selena agreed to meet her dear friend on the morning of March 31, 1995, to try and sort things out. That morning, Yolanda shot Selena in the back. Selena managed to get away and was able to identify Yolanda as the shooter before she died in hospital. Yolanda was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 30 years for murdering her good friend and idol.
2. Sharon Tate
Married to director Roman Polanski and famous for her role in movies like The Fearless Vampire Killers and Valley of the Dolls, Sharon Tate was hot property in the ‘60s. Her life was cut short in 1969, when, nine months pregnant with her first child, she was murdered by the Manson family cult. She was stabbed 16 times, one of her breasts was cut off, and an X had been carved into her stomach. The Manson family wrote “PIG” on her door in blood, and five of her friends who were visiting her home that evening were also brutally murdered. Sharon Tate was buried with her unborn son in her arms.
3. Dominique Dunne
Dominique Dunne, star of Poltergeist, was murdered at age 22 by her ex-boyfriend, John Thomas Sweeney. During their relationship, John was controlling and physically abusive, and Dominique made many attempts to leave him. She finally left him in 1982, a year after they met, following a fight where he tried to strangle her. But it wasn’t over. A few weeks later, Dominique was at home going over lines for a new job with actor David Packer. John showed up, and Dominique went out to the porch to talk to him while David sat inside. An argument erupted, and when David tried to leave, he spotted John strangling Dominique in bushes by the house’s driveway. Dominique was taken to hospital unconscious, and her family had to make the harrowing decision to turn off her life support. Adding to the drama, John was sentenced to six years in prison but served only three.
4. Dorothy Stratten
Named Playboy's Miss August in 1979 and Playmate of the Year in 1980, Dorothy Stratten was also an actress in TV shows like Buck Rogers and Fantasy Island. Her husband, Paul Snider was controlling and obsessive, and friends tried to warn her about him. Dorothy began an extra-marital affair with director Peter Bogdanovich, and Paul hired a private detective to follow her. When all was revealed, Dorothy left Paul for Peter. But when Dorothy later met Paul in their old home to discuss their divorce, things got ugly. Dorothy and Paul’s naked bodies were later found in Paul’s bedroom by houseguest Dr. Stephen Cushner. It’s believed Paul shot Dorothy, raped her corpse and then committed suicide.
5. Tupac Shakur
Iconic rapper Tupac was shot on September 1996, as he left a Mike Tyson boxing match at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, when a car pulled up next to his and the occupants opened fire. Tupac was shot four times, and died in hospital six days later, aged 25. No one knows who is responsible for Tupac’s murder, and it remains one of pop culture’s greatest mysteries. Salacious conspiracy theories suggest the shooting was part of a East Coast-West Coast hip hop feud that involved Biggie Smalls.
6. The Notorious B.I.G.
Six months after the death of Tupac, the conspiracy escalated with the shooting death of Christopher Wallace, aka The Notorious B.I.G. aka Biggie Smalls. On March 1997, a car pulled up next to Biggie’s and the occupants opened fire--much the same as in the murder of Tupac. Biggie was shot and pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. One of the biggest theories circulating is that Suge Knight, the music producer who was in the car with Tupac at the time of his murder but survived, ordered the hit on Biggie, but no one knows for sure who is responsible.
7. Natalie Wood
Natalie Wood is famous for roles in Miracle on 34th Street, Rebel Without a Cause, and West Side Story. But on November 28, 1981, she mysteriously drowned while on a yacht vacation with her husband Robert Wagner, Brainstorm co-star Christopher Walken, and the boat's captain, Dennis Davern. Her death was ruled an accident, but her autopsy revealed bruises on her body and arms, and a cut on her cheek. In November 2011, police reopened the case when Dennis came forward and admitted he had initially lied. He revealed that Natalie and Robert had been fighting the night she died and that Robert was responsible for her death. The cause of her death was subsequently changed to "drowning and other undetermined factors." It’s still unknown exactly what happened, and while Robert has never been charged with anything, as with all mysterious cases, salacious rumours abound.
8. Lana Clarkson
Struggling actress Lana Clarkson was working in the VIP area at the House of Blues in LA when she met Phil Spector in 2003. In the early hours of the morning, she agreed to go back to his mansion, where they went inside, while his limo driver waited outside. Only an hour later, the driver heard a gunshot, and witnessed Phil leaving the house with a gun in his hand. Phil reportedly and now infamously said “I think I just shot her,” although he later claimed it was an “accidental suicide.” He is currently serving a sentence of 19 years in prison.
9. Phil Hartman
Saturday Night Live icon Phil Hartman was married to aspiring actress Brynn Omdahl in 1987. The couple had two children, but things turned sour when Brynn couldn’t cope with her husband’s success, jealous of his career. She started abusing drugs and alcohol. In 1998, after an argument, Phil went to bed alone. At 3am, Brynn came into the bedroom, and shot Phill three times in his sleep. Later that morning, after confessing to the crime, Brynn locked herself in the bathroom and shot herself dead.
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