Celebrities are always in the spotlight, subjected to all the love and hate the greater public can throw their way. And once in a while, that love can be the deadliest thing of all. But sometimes a celebrity's tragic end comes from those closest to them—a friend, a family member, a lover. It seems even all the money in the world still can't buy someone complete safety.
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While it's always sad when a public figure meets an untimely end, these are not the tales of people who succumbed to addiction, depression, or accidents. These are those whose life was unwillingly and violently torn away from them for one petty reason or another. Here are 10 of the most shocking celebrity deaths.
The murder of Sharon Tate is perhaps one of the most well-known celebrity deaths. Tate was a model and actress, praised for her talent in both comedic and dramatic roles. At the time of her death, she was married to controversial director Roman Polanski and pregnant with her first child. Just after midnight on August 9th, 1969, Tate, along with Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, Abigail Folger, and Steven Parent, became the next victims of the Manson family cult. Charles Manson had instructed Tex Watson to bring Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel to the former residence of record producer Terry Melcher and kill everyone inside. It was the residence the Polanski family then called home.
No one has a voice like Marvin Gaye. This singer and songwriter was vital in shaping the sound of Motown, releasing classic hits like "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," "What's Going On," and "Let's Get in On." On the afternoon of April 1st, 1984, Gaye stepped in the middle of an argument between his mother, Alberta, and father, Marvin Sr. A physical altercation between Gaye and his father soon followed, and Marvin Sr. shot his son twice—once in the chest and once in the shoulder. The first bullet pierced Gaye's heart, killing him one day short of his 45th birthday.
Christina Grimmie was a young and promising singer who got her start posting song covers on YouTube. Her career was launched into success when she starred in the sixth season of the singing reality show The Voice, placing in third. One June 10th, 2016, after performing at a concert in Orlando, Florida, Grimmie was shot dead while signing autographs. The culprit, Kevin James Loibl, shot himself in the head after being pursued by Grimmie's brother. There's no official motive for the homicide, but it's speculated that it was a case of unhealthy infatuation. At the time of her murder, Grimmie was just 22 years old.
John Lennon wasn't just a member of the Beatles—one of the world's largest cultural phenomena—he was also a well-known peace activist. With a number of rousing anti-war anthems under his belt, we all know such favorites as "All You Need Is Love," "Revolution," and "Imagine." Shortly after marrying Yoko Ono, he quit the Beatles to embark on a solo career. On December 8th, 1980, Lennon was shot dead by Mark David Chapman. Chapman's motive for the murder was religious—a retaliation against Lennon's remark that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus."
Jam Master Jay
Jam Master Jay—born Jason William Mizell–was the DJ of influential hip-hop group Run-D.M.C. In 1989, he also established Jam Master Jay Records, which is best known for signing 50 cent. He was an icon within the hip hop community, a large part of the force that helped propel the genre into the mainstream. Unfortunately, on October 30th, 2002, he was shot dead in a recording studio in Jamaica, Queens. Though two people—Ronald “Tinard” Washington and Karl “Lil D” Jordan—have been charged with Jam Master Jay's murder, they have plead not guilty and have not yet been convicted.
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Beloved Canadian-American actor and comedian Phil Hartman may be best known for his time on Saturday Night Live, where he performed for eight seasons. He also made an irreplaceable mark on pop culture, voicing various roles on The Simpsons and starring in the children's Christmas movie Jingle All the Way as Ted Maltin. Hartman married Brynn Omdahl in 1987, but their marriage was constantly strained due to Omdahl's drug use and domestic abuse against Hartman. Following an argument, Omdahl shot and killed Hartman while he was asleep in bed during the early morning hours of May 28th, 1998. She then turned the gun on herself.
Adrienne Shelly was an actress, screenwriter, and director known largely for independent films such as The Unbelievable Truth and Trust. She wrote, directed, and co-starred in the film Waitress, which has since gained even more popularity after being turned into a successful Broadway musical. The film was, however, released posthumously. She was found dead on November 1st, 2006, of an apparent suicide by hanging. The protests of her husband, Andy Ostroy, led to a closer look at the investigation, which later revealed that 19-year-old construction worker Diego Pillco killed her during a robbery and staged the scene.
Also known as the "Queen of Tejano music," Selena is one of the most celebrated Latinx singers and fashion icons of all time. Known for hits like "Como La Flor," "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom," and "Si Una Vez," she also designed and manufactured a line of clothing, featured in two boutiques called Selena Etc. On March 31st, 1995, Selena was murdered by Yolanda Saldívar, her friend and the former manager of her boutiques. Saldívar had recently been confronted about her embezzlement of more than $30,000 from Selena's fan club and boutiques, and as Selena confronted her in a hotel over financial papers, Saldívar pulled a gun and shot her once in the shoulder. By the time Selena arrived at the hospital, she was dead.
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Singer and songwriter Sam Cooke is one of the most influential soul artists of all time. Songs like "(What A) Wonderful World," "Twistin' the Night Away," and "A Change is Gonna Come" are unmatched cultural landmarks. He is also known for his heavy involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. But on December 11th, 1964, he was shot and killed by Bertha Franklin, the manager of South Central L.A.'s Hacienda Motel. Earlier that night, Cooke allegedly attempted to rape Elisa Boyer, who fled to seek help. Cooke arrived later at the manager's office in search of Boyer, naked but for one shoe and a sport jacket. Franklin alleges Cooke was shot in self-defense as a scuffle ensued, and the authorities accepted this as the official ruling. However, members of Cooke's family have disputed Boyer's account of the events, as well as Franklin's, attributing Cooke's murder to a deeper conspiracy.
Gianni Versace was an Italian fashion designer, socialite, and businessman. He was of course the founder of international fashion brand Versace, which produces luxury accessories, fragrances, make-up, home furnishings, and clothes. Through friendships with such performing greats as Madonna, Tupac Shakur, and Elton John, Versace was a vital part of linking fashion to the music industry. But on July 5th, 1997, he was shot dead by spree killer Andrew Cunanan, who had murdered four other men prior. Cunanan suffered delusions of grandeur, and often bragged about a close friendship with Versace which never existed. Beyond that, no clear motive for this killing was ever provided.