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       November 20, 2011 4:52 PM

 She didn't have an enemy in the world


In 1989 Rebecca Schaeffer, co-star of the TV sitcom My Sister Sam, was a twenty-one year old actress on her way up, having recently finished a film directed by Dyan Cannon, One Point of View.

On July 18, 1989, her doorbell rang. Because the apartment complex intercom wasn't working, she went downstairs to see who it was and saw a young man in a yellow shirt outside the door. She didn't know him and returned to her apartment. An hour later, her bell rang again. She went down to the door and saw the same man. This time she opened the door and told him he was wasting her time. That was a big mistake.

The man was twenty-one year old Robert Bardo, a relentless stalker.

He took out a gun and shot her once in the chest. "She said I was wasting her time," he later said. "Wasting her time! I thought this was a very callous thing to say to a fan."

Two neighbors heard Rebecca's screams and rushed downstairs. They found her lying in the foyer in a pool of blood and called for help. Thirty minutes later Rebecca died at the hospital. Witnesses told police they had seen a young man in a yellow shirt jogging away but said he ducked into an alley and disappeared.

Rebecca was not the first object of his obsession. In 1982, he became obsessed with ten-year-old Samantha Smith, who wrote a letter to Soviet General Secretary Yuri Andropov. He invited her to visit the Soviet Union. She accepted which drew wide media attention and later wrote a book about her visit. At the age of 13, Bardo took a bus to Maine to try and talk to Samantha. Police found him and sent him back to Tucson. A good student, Bardo sometimes wrote threatening letters to his teachers and was twice hospitalized. After Samantha's tragic death at age 13 in a 1985 plane crash, Bardo began stalking Rebecca Schaeffer.

The youngest of 7 children, Bardo was the son of a former Air Force officer. While growing up in Tucson, Arizona, he apparently suffered physical and emotional abuse. One of his teachers called him "a time bomb on the verge of exploding." At 16, he got a job at a fast-food restaurant. By then he was watching My Sister Sam on TV. Obsessed with Rebecca Schaeffer, he wrote her fan letters. She responded with a letter on which she drew a peace sign and a heart, and signed it: "With love from Rebecca." The day he received it he wrote in his diary: "I would like to become famous to impress her."

If this sounds familiar, it may be because Bardo studied other stalkers. After Mark Chapman went to prison for killing John Lennon in 1980, Bardo briefly corresponded with him. He also studied Arthur Jackson, another stalker. In 1982, actress Theresa Saldana had narrowly escaped death when Jackson tried to kill her. [See my post about the Saldana case in the Stalkers category]

Bardo collected videos of Rebecca's TV shows, taped glossy pictures of her to the walls of his room and continued sending her love letters. In June 1987, he rode a bus to Hollywood and took a teddy bear and a bouquet of roses for Rebecca to the studio where My Sister Sam was produced. The guard didn't let him in. A month later Bardo returned with a knife. Again, the guard refused to let him in.

He returned to Tucson and wrote in his diary: "I don't lose. Period."

Then he saw Rebecca's new film, Class Struggle in Beverly Hills, which showed a scene with her in bed with a male actor. Enraged at the woman he considered an innocent young girl, Bardo decided Rebecca was now "one of the bitches of Hollywood" and had to be punished. He drew a diagram of her body, marked the spots where he planned to shoot her, and asked an older brother to buy him a gun. He also wrote a letter to his sister in Tennessee, telling her that if he couldn't have Rebecca, no one else would.

In July 1989, he took a bus to Hollywood, determined to track her down. He called her agent's office but they refused to tell him where she lived so he began showing her photo to people on the street, asking if they knew where she lived. To no avail. He paid a private detective $250 to find her. Quite needlessly. For a dollar, anyone could go to a California DMV office, fill out forms about who they were, whose address they wanted and why. Even if they lied, the information is delivered on the spot.

Thus on July 18, Bardo went to Rebecca's apartment building, with horrifying results. The next day, motorists in Tucson reported a man running in traffic on an interstate highway. When police picked him up, Bardo immediately confessed to killing Rebecca. They faxed his photo to the LA police. Witnesses identified him as the man they had seen outside Rebecca's apartment, and he was extradited to California.

Although defense attorneys said he was mentally unstable due to childhood abuse, he was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life without parole in December 1991.

Incensed at the way he was portrayed in the media, Bardo said: "I was a fan of hers and I may have carried it a bit too far, but ... the press [makes me sound] like a monster."

Which he was, of course, and continued to be. While incarcerated he became obsessed with the woman who had prosecuted and convicted him. Her name was Marcia Clark, and winning a conviction in this heinous case brought her fame in California.

She later served as prosecutor in the OJ Simpson case. She didn't win a conviction, but it brought her world-wide fame. After she put him in jail, Bardo began collecting news clippings about Marcia and gathered information about her family. He couldn't stalk her in person, but he could, in his own sick way, pursue her. 

In 2007, Bardo was stabbed repeatedly by another inmate. After being treated at a medical facility, he was returned to prison, where he remains at this writing.

But enough about Bardo. Let us instead focus on Rebecca Schaeffer's accomplishments. The only child of a child psychologist and a writer, Rebecca grew up in Portland, Oregon. As a teenager, she began modeling and appearing in TV commercials. The effervescent teenager impressed everyone she met. "She had a fresh charismatic way about her," said one talent agency owner. "She was gorgeous, big brown eyes, dimples and a beautiful smile."

She moved to New York to focus on acting, hit the cover of Seventeen magazine and was hired to co-star on the sitcom My Sister Sam. After the series ended in 1988, she appeared in several movies and became a spokesperson for a children's charity, Thursday's Child.

"She didn't have an enemy in the world," a friend said after her death. And her death was not in vain. Governor George Deukmejian later signed a law prohibiting the DMV from releasing addresses.

Rebecca's case, along with that of actress Theresa Saldana, inspired anti-stalking legislation in California. It became effective on January 1, 1991. By 1993, all 50 states, and Canada, had put anti-stalking laws into effect.

Brad Silberling had been dating Rebecca at the time of her death. The morning she was murdered Rebecca had left a loving message on his answering machine. Grief-stricken, he befriended Rebecca's parents and later wrote a screenplay. The Moonlight Mile, a fictional account of his love for Rebecca, was released in 2002, starring Susan Sarandon, Dustin Hoffman and Jake Gyllenhaal.

For more details on this and other cases, see DARK DEEDS, Volume 1

I look forward to your comments on the case. That anti-stalking laws exist is a good thing. Unfortunately, all too often this fails to stop a determined stalker.

Sources: arjanbrass.blogspot.com/2011/05/john-robert-bardo.html

The Gift of Fear, Gavin De Becker, pp. 291-294

USA Today, Killer of actress stabbed in prison, 7/26/2007

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[ Posted by mary, November 06, 2013 4:58 PM ]
     Rebecca was born exactly one week after I was. I remember watching My Sister Sam and really enjoying it. Rebecca was funny, adorable, beautiful and had such an innocence about her. Not like other young Hollywood stars that know they are beautiful or at least think they are and think they are entitled to act any way because of it. That bastard who took her life I hope rots for eternity. She would be 46 today. A shame she couldn't just live her life and see what else she could have accomplished. Well Rebecca, the short time you were here, you did so well, you made lifelong impressions. Miss you

posted by SUSAN FLEET   November 20, 2011 4:52 PM  Stalkers 


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