November 6, 1967 – July 18, 1989
“Sam, I thought you said this was a great way to meet guys?!”
Schaeffer was about to make it big. She was in the fairly successful sitcom My Sister Sam with Pam Dauber and David Naughton. She had just completed filming one the most offensive films (and one of my favorites), Scenes from a Class Struggle in Beverly Hills. Wouldn’t you know it? Some lunatic comes and ruins everything. They always do.
Robert John Bardo was obsessed with Schaeffer ever since she responded to a fan letter, signing “Love” on it. He of course took the next bus to LA because she meant it.
Bardo, took to wandering around her neighborhood in an attempt to locate her home. He flashed his personally autographed photograph of Rebecca to anyone who would look at him, asking if people knew where she lived. Finally he hired a private detective to get her address. The dick goes to the DMV, fills out a form, spends a buck, gets her address and provides it to her stalker. Completely legal.
The 21-year-old Schaeffer lived in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles, in a Tudor style building on Sweetzer. Nice area, very nice building, but they don’t allow pets. That’s racist.
On Tuesday morning, July 18, 1989, Bardo, wearing a (WARNING gory) yellow shirt, approaches the building and rings the door bell. Rebecca lived in unit 4. The doorbell remains the same – the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Ding Dong, psycho calling.
Oh wait, the best part? You’ll never guess which book he was carrying. Give up? Mmhmm. The original handbook for crazy.
Why don’t they put tracking devices in these things?
The intercom doesn’t work, so Rebecca descends the stairs,
and approaches the front door (thank you Rick Jackson), to see the maniac standing outside.
Now be honest, if you saw this face, would you open the door? You can almost hear the demon’s wings flapping around his head.
She opens the door, talks to him politely and says something like, “I’m really busy, please leave me alone.” Big mistake. Big. Huge.
Bardo walks away, steaming. She was rude to him. He consoles himself with an order of onion rings and a slice of cheesecake (red flag) at nearby Jan’s.
He returns to Rebecca’s building an hour later.
He rings the bell again, Ding Dong, Death. Still in her housecoat she returns to the front door, turns the handle and opens it and says something like, ‘You’re wasting my time now, please leave me alone.” Bardo responds, “I forgot to give you this,” He pulls a .357 out of a plastic bag, and shot her.
A half a dozen neighbors heard her scream, and turned to see her slumped in the doorway, and Bardo hoof it through the buildings into the alleyway. He got away, until the next day.
Bardo’s own account of the incident: “She had this kid voice…sounded like a little brat or something…said I was wasting her time! …Wasting her time! No matter what, I thought that was a very callous thing to say to a fan, you know…I grabbed the door…guns still in the bag…I grab it by the trigger…I come around, and kapow, and she’s like screaming… aaahhh…screaming…why, aaahhh … and it’s like, oh God…”
She lay in the doorway, eyes staring into the sky, neighbors called 911.
Bardo hits the pavement, for the bus station. A neighbor named Richard Goldman rushed over to her, and checked her pulse, but found none. Half an hour later, she was pronounced dead at Cedars Sinai Medical Center.
The crime scene and the doorway were pretty gory.
This is the graphic image – I guess we’re desensitized now – I thought the bloody door was pretty gross.
From what I understand, Bardo had a history of being off balance. He had an obsession with Schaeffer that loads of people knew about. I’ve heard one story that his family heard about the murder on the radio and all, and they shot each other the look. You know. Aw sh*t…
The next day, Bardo was arrested in Tucson for obstructing traffic in a major intersection. He confessed immediately to the murder. Arizona police faxed his photo to LA, and witnesses confirm his identity.
Rebecca’s body was shipped back to her native Oregon, for burial.
A year after the slaying, Bardo gave an interview in which he stated, “I was a fan of hers and I may have carried it too far. But a lot of things have appeared in the press to make me out to be a monster. If I had one wish where if it was to ever come true it would be for Rebecca Schaeffer to be alive today.” I can’t make light of this one. Lock him up and throw away the key. Please.
This in from Findadeath.com friend Barbara Puckett: ” Marcia Clark, who attempted to prosecute O.J. Simpson is also the same person that prosecuted Rebecca’s killer.
Thanks Barbara, you’re right. It was her first big case!
Unbeknownst to her, Rebecca has saved lives.
The Security industry owes a big thank you to Bardo, and Manson before him. They (rightfully) put the fear of God into many celebrities. Less than a year later, the Los Angeles police department began the Threat Management Unit to deal with Stalking and Harassment cases. The Department of Motor Vehicles no longer lets this information be accessible to the general public. Unfortunately it takes a tragedy like this, for things to change.
You can also use your post office address on your drivers license, which is awesome.
Find a Death friend Leigh Sasser:
Her fiancee at the time of her death was director Brad Silberling. He wrote and directed the recent film starring Dustin Hoffman & Susan Sarandon, “Moonlight Mile“, based on her death and his grief experiences afterwards. Great movie, bizarre story.
Find a Death friend Vanessa:
Just another update, I believe Brad Silberling is also married to Amy Brenneman from “Judging Amy” fame. Small world! Also RE: your latest home page from the 11th March, what some folks don’t seem to get, is that no matter how rich and famous people can be they still end up in the ground or the oven eventually!
Findadeath friend Michelle:
Apparently, Rebecca Schaeffer’s killer was inspired by the U2 song “Exit,” on the Joshua Tree album. The song is about a man who is abusive and contemplating either murder or suicide (with the lyric: “Hand in the pocket/finger on the steel/the pistol weighed heavy/his heart he could feel was beating, beating, beating, oh my love, etc.). I’m not sure how that played out in court, though. Just thought I’d pass on what I’ve heard!
Friend of Find a Death Vanessa from Chicago:
Bardo still packs a lot of crazy, writing rambling letters to people, etc. How do I know? Here’s mine. What’s interesting – and mental health professionals please bear with me – Bardo looks like a lunatic, and acted like a lunatic – but I believe he is in a “normal” person. The guy that killed John Lennon – he seems like a very rational human being, and he’s the one that was in the mental facility. I’m just sayin.
Thank you to the bajillion Findadeath pals (for which I am truly grateful) who sent me this article – July 28, 2007:
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The obsessed fan who murdered television actress Rebecca Schaeffer in 1989 has been stabbed repeatedly by a fellow inmate at a California prison, the Los Angeles Times reported on Saturday.
Robert John Bardo, 37, suffered 11 stab and puncture wounds on Friday at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, California, about 110 miles east of San Francisco.
Bardo, who is serving a life sentence with no possibility of parole, was airlifted to a hospital for treatment then returned to the prison, the Times quoted officials as saying.
The paper said the suspect was a 49-year-old killer, also serving a life term.
The death of 21-year-old Schaeffer, a star of “My Sister Sam,” helped prompt anti-stalking laws. Bardo had been obsessed with her for years, and hired a private investigator to obtain her Los Angeles home address through the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
He shot her when she opened her door, and was arrested the next day. He was convicted and sentenced in 1991.
UPDATE 2014: A portrait of Rebecca drawn by Bardo himself.
Wanna see her mailbox?
Thank you to Terri Rios and Justin Mercer for the photographs in this story.
You can discuss Rebecca’s murder with others on the Findadeath Forum.