The world of a celebrity can be very strange as they live their lives under a microscope. With the public watching their every move, it makes it all the more shocking and heartbreaking when they cause another person’s death.
Some of your favorite stars have actually taken and been accused of taking another person’s life. Many times, it’s by accident. But other times, it’s actual murder. Here’s a list of actors, musicians, famous athletes, and even a former first lady who have killed other people.
In May 2014, terrifying calls were made to 911, claiming that The Shield star Michael Jace fatally shot his wife while their two small children were present.
According to authorities, the actor, who actually was one of the people who called the murder in, was upset that April Jace wanted to divorce him and was possibly seeing other men. So he shot her once in the back and twice in the legs. He confessed to shooting her, but said he only wanted her to be in pain, not die. In 2016, a jury convicted him of second-degree murder and he was sentenced to 40 years to life in prison.
In a horrific murder/suicide, wrestling star Chris Benoit reportedly strangled his wife, smothered his 7-year-old son, and placed Bibles at their sides before hanging himself from the pulley of a weight machine in June 2007, reported FoxNews. There was rampant speculation about Benoit abusing steroids, but a report published by the Sports Legacy Institute (via Science Daily) indicated that years of head trauma likely resulted in the kind of brain damage necessary to drive someone to commit such a heinous act.
Don King is probably one of the most notorious figures associated with sports, particularly boxing. This guy has been implicated and indicted countless times, but none of his professional malfeasances has been a surprise to those who know his history. Before he promoted his first fight, King reportedly killed not one, but two people.
According to ESPN, “he [shot and] killed a man who tried to rob one of his gambling houses” in 1954. “The shooting was ruled a justifiable homicide, sparing King a prison sentence.” In The first death, which occurred in 1954, was ruled a case of self-defense.
In 1976, King was convicted of second-degree manslaughter after he reportedly “stomped a man to death” over an alleged $600 gambling debt. According to Complex, “King received a pardon from the Ohio Governor after doing almost four years in prison.”
Back in 1987, actor Matthew Broderick was driving on a Northern Ireland roadway with his then-girlfriend and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off co-star, Jennifer Grey, when a terrible crash occurred. At one point, and perhaps out of his American habit, Broderick mistakenly crossed over onto the right side of his lane. The actor’s rented vehicle ended up colliding with another car driven by Anna Gallagher, 28. She and her mother, Margaret Doherty, 63, who was the passenger, both died of their injuries shortly after the accident.
Broderick was charged with causing death by dangerous driving, which was later reduced to careless driving and fined $175.
We’ve reached the final tragic tale on our list, which goes back to 1978 when Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious stabbed his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, to death in a hotel room in New York City.
After first saying he had no idea how she died, the rocker confessed to authorities that he did in fact stab her, but didn’t mean to kill her. He never stood trial for her murder though because, just a few months after her death, he was found dead of a drug overdose while out on bail.
In 1984, Motley Crue frontman Vince Neil was operating a vehicle while intoxicated and got into an awful crash that killed his passenger and seriously injured two other people. Neil was driving his car when he lost control and veered into oncoming traffic. He ended up smacking into another car and the two passengers in that vehicle suffered brain damage. The passenger in his car, Nicholas “Razzle” Dingley, who was the drummer of the Finnish metal band Hanoi Rocks, died from injuries sustained in the collision.
Neil was charged with vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence. He received a sentence of 30 days in jail and five years probation. He only served half of that time in prison though, as he was released on good behavior.
In 2003, after a night of drinking, followed by a romantic rejection, record producer Phil Spector put a gun in actress Lana Clarkson’s mouth and pulled the trigger. He then walked outside and told his chauffeur, “I think I killed somebody”—or so the prosecution in his murder trial would have the jury believe.
His defense, according to The New York Times, alleged that Spector’s non-native English speaking driver misheard Spector’s pleas to “call someone” on account of some gurgling noises from a nearby fountain coupled with the driver’s “fatigue and hunger from working all night.”
The jury didn’t buy it, and in 2009, Spector was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 19 years to life.
Nobody ever said auto racing was safe, yet while accidents routinely occur during the sport, deaths are relatively rare. Sadly, this was not the case when, in 2014, Tony Stewart struck and killed Kevin Ward during a dirt-track race at the Canandaigua Motorsports Park in New York.
Controversy swirled over whether or not Stewart intentionally struck Ward, as well as why Ward climbed out of the safety of his vehicle in the first place and decided to walk onto the track during an active race. According to CBS Sports, a grand jury cleared Stewart of wrongdoing and also discovered that Ward had been under the influence of marijuana the night he died. Ward’s family sued, alleging Stewart could have easily avoided hitting Ward. At the time of this writing, that legal action is ongoing.
Charles S. Dutton
Before taking an interest in acting, Charles S. Dutton had a pretty rough life. According to the Chicago Tribune, the name of his 1990s Fox sitcom, Roc, came from his real-life nickname, which he earned through his frequent participation in rock-throwing fights as a kid. “I liked getting in trouble,” he said (via NPR). “I enjoyed getting in fights. I enjoyed the challenge of battle.”
This penchant for violence escalated. At age 17, he reportedly killed a man, and though Dutton claimed he was defending himself from an attack, the incident resulted in a manslaughter conviction and a 5-year sentence. According to NPR, “Even in prison, though, he continued his fighting ways, assaulting a guard and getting eight years added to his sentence. A decade or so later, he was on his way to ‘the hole’ for solitary confinement when he picked up a book of plays sent to him by a girlfriend. It ended up changing his life. As he puts it, he found what he was ‘born to do.'” Dutton petitioned the warden to start a prison drama group.
Upon his release, Dutton earned a master’s degree in acting from the Yale School of Drama and became an Emmy-winning actor and advocate through his “From Jail to Yale” stage performance.
In 2001, former Noxzema girl Rebecca Gayhart struck and killed 9-year-old Jorge Cruz Jr. with her car in Los Angeles.
The actress was charged with vehicular manslaughter and pleaded no contest to the charge. She ended up getting probation, a fine, having her license revoked for a year, and serving community service. In addition, the parents of the boy filed a wrongful death suit against her.
The Who drummer Keith Moon reportedly ran his Bentley over his chauffeur, Neil Boland, while allegedly trying to escape from a pack of skinheads in January 1970, reported Rolling Stone. Moon was charged with drunk driving, driving without a license, and driving without insurance, but those charges were later dropped. “Under the circumstances, the judge told Moon, ‘You had no choice but to act the way you did and no moral culpability is attached to you,'” reported Rolling Stone.
Getty ImagesOn the screen, Oscar-winning actor Gig Young was a consummate performer, but his personal life seemed like a photo negative of his professional one. He was nominated for Academy Awards three times and won for best supporting actor in 1970 for his role in They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
Offscreen, Young become an alcoholic and saw three marriages end in divorce, according to Entertainment Weekly. (He also lost his second wife, Sophie Rosenstein, to cancer.) In 1973, Young blew one of the biggest leading man opportunities he would ever get when he was fired from Blazing Saddles after being incapable of performing due to severe withdrawal symptoms. He was replaced with Gene Wilder. Young developed a reputation for being unreliable and was even said to be suffering from the “Curse of the Oscar.”
In 1978, Young’s troubles came to a head when, just three weeks after marrying German actress Kim Schmidt, he shot and killed her then turned the gun on himself, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Longtime agent and friend Martin Baum, to whom Young willed almost his entire estate, said, “He seemed like a man who had everything going for him. How little we know.”
Rising action star Brandon Lee died in March 1993 on the set of The Crow after being shot with an ill-prepared prop gun. In what is perhaps the ultimate irony, he died while filming his character’s death scene, which, according to The Telegraph, fueled a number of wild conspiracy theories. But there was another victim that day as well: Lee’s co-star, Michael Massee.
Massee is the actor who played the villain, Funboy, and he was the unlucky one who pulled the trigger, discharging what was eventually revealed to be a fragment of a “dummy bullet” accidentally left in the chamber after the gun was used to shoot close-ups earlier in the day. According to People, the fragment came to rest near Lee’s spine and caused so much damage that doctors were unable to save his life.
Massee, who died of cancer in 2016 at the age of 64, reportedly only spoke publicly about the tragic accident one time, in a 2005 Extra interview. He said Lee’s death affected him so deeply that he immediately took an entire year off to do nothing but stick close to family and friends. When asked if he’d “gotten over it,” Massee said, “I don’t think you ever get over something like that. No, I’ve gone through it a lot and things keep changing… You just keep on going. Life is extraordinary and very resilient, you know? And you take the good where you see it, and that’s how I have.”
The Sopranos and A Bronx Tale star Lillo Brancato Jr. was charged with second-degree murder for his role in the shooting death of off-duty police officer Daniel Enchautegui in 2005.
The actor’s accomplice, which was his girlfriend’s father, was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life in prison. Brancato Jr. was found not guilty of murder. However, the jury did find him guilty of first-degree attempted burglary and he served eight years behind bars before his release in 2013.
In 2006, actor Lane Garrison’s career prospects were looking good. He had a recurring role on Prison Break as David “Tweener” Apolskis (2005-07) as well as a small part in the Mark Wahlberg action blockbuster Shooter (2007). But on Dec. 2, 2006, the 26-year-old star decided to party with some teens he met in a grocery store parking lot, and everything went sideways.
According to People, Garrison went to a party with the teens and was “driving them back to the store” when he lost control of his Land Rover and hit a tree. Seventeen-year-old passenger Vahagn Setian was rushed to the hospital but did not survive. An unidentified 15-year-old female passenger suffered “a fractured pelvis and shattered arm,” and another 15-year-old female passenger was “not seriously injured.” At the time of the crash, People reported that Garrison’s blood alcohol level was .20 and police reported that he had “an undisclosed amount of cocaine his system, according to a blood test.”
Garrison pleaded guilty to “vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence and two other alcohol-related charges,” according to People. He was sentenced to 40 months in prison.
After serving his time, Garrison told the Today show that it was difficult for him to not be able to reach out to the Setian family on account of a court order barring him from contacting them. “There’s a family that doesn’t have their son. The least of my worries was doing jail time. The whole notion that I was responsible for someone losing their life, that’s what really ate me up inside. This is something that I am never going to get over, they’re never going to get over,” Garrison said.
In 2006, R&B singer Brandy Norwood was in a wreck, which involved several vehicles, on a Los Angeles highway and blamed the accident, and death of another woman, on herself. The Moesha star failed to stop in time when she approached a pile-up on the freeway. She ended up hitting a car driven by Awatef Aboudihaj, who died as a result of the impact.
Witnesses at the scene told TMZ that Norwood was extremely distraught and continuously blamed the accident on herself, saying she should have stopped.