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Robert John BARDO





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Stalker - Obsessed with Rebecca Schaeffer
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: July 18, 1989
Date of arrest: Next day
Date of birth: January 2, 1970
Victim profile: Actress Rebecca Lucile Schaeffer, 21
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison without parole on December 20, 1991

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Robert John Bardo (born January 2, 1970) is an American man serving life in prison without parole after being convicted in October 1991 for the murder of actress Rebecca Schaeffer on July 18, 1989, whom he had stalked for several years beforehand.

Early life

Bardo grew up in Tucson, Arizona, the youngest of seven children and the son of a former Air Force non-commissioned officer and a Japanese national.

Prior to locking his sights onto Schaeffer, Bardo was fixated with pop stars Madonna, Tiffany, and Debbie Gibson.


Having previously stalked child peace activist Samantha Smith before her death in a 1985 plane crash, Bardo turned his attention to Schaeffer in 1986; among his methods were attempts to gain access to the set of the CBS TV series My Sister Sam, in which Schaeffer was then starring.

Ultimately, he obtained her home address via a detective agency, which in turn had obtained it from the California Department of Motor Vehicles. He confronted her at her home, angry at her for having starred in a sex scene in the film Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills and thus having "lost her innocence". He visited her at her apartment and told her he was a big fan. She asked him to leave. When he came back, he fatally shot her.

The prosecutor for the state was Marcia Clark, who later became famous as a lead prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson trial, though she made her name in the legal profession with her prosecution of Bardo.

Bardo also carried around a copy of The Catcher in the Rye with him when he murdered Schaeffer. He later learned that Mark David Chapman had also carried a copy with him when he shot and killed John Lennon on December 8, 1980.

Bardo was housed in a Security Housing Unit (SHU) for inmates with "sensitive needs", including former gang members, notorious prisoners and those convicted of sex crimes.


Partly as a result of Bardo's actions and his means of obtaining Schaeffer's address, the US federal government passed the Driver's Privacy Protection Act which prohibits state Departments of Motor Vehicles from releasing the home addresses of state residents

On July 27, 2007, Bardo, age 37, was stabbed 11 times on his way to breakfast in the maximum-security unit at Mule Creek State Prison in Amador County, California. Two inmate-made weapons were found at the scene.

He was treated at the University of California, Davis Medical Center and returned to prison, officials said. The suspect in the attack is another convict serving 82-years-to-life for second-degree murder.


Killer of actress stabbed in prison

July 28, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The man convicted of stalking and killing actress Rebecca Schaeffer in 1989 was stabbed repeatedly by another inmate in the prison where he is serving a life sentence, corrections officials said.

Robert John Bardo, 37, suffered 11 stab and puncture wounds Friday at Mule Creek State Prison in Amador County, authorities said. He was treated at University of California, Davis, Medical Center and returned to the prison, officials said.

"We have a number of high-notoriety cases, so we cannot jump to the conclusion as to whether his notoriety was a factor in the attack," said prison Sgt. Chris Weathersbee.

The slaying of Schaeffer, a former teenage model who co-starred in the 1980s sitcom "My Sister Sam," helped prompt anti-stalking laws. She was shot when she answered the door of her home in Los Angeles.

According to trial testimony, Bardo, then 19, was obsessed with Schaeffer, and sent her letters and tried to visit her. He obtained her address through a private detective, who got it from the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Bardo was housed in a maximum-security unit for inmates with sensitive needs, including former gang members, notorious prisoners and those convicted of sex crimes.

State Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials said he was stabbed in the prison yard while inmates were on their way to breakfast. Two inmate-made weapons were found at the scene. The suspect in the attack was identified as a man serving an 82-years-to-life sentence for second-degree murder.


Rebecca Schaeffer

The Stalking Death that Changed the Law
Rebecca Schaeffer Never Lived to Realize Her Success

In the late 1980s, a young actress named Rebecca Lucile Schaeffer was struggling to find her big break into show business. Born in 1967, the only child of a psychologist and a writer, Rebecca was sleek, svelte and beautiful. Her beauty landed her on the cover of Seventeen magazine.

She was at the beginning of a promising career as an actress when an unemployed Tucson, Ariz., fast-food worker, who had developed an obsession with her, struck her down in 1989.

She couldn’t even afford a phone when her agent tacked a note on her apartment door telling her to report to the set of My Sister Sam, her breakthrough starring opposite Pam Dawber of Mork and Mindy fame. She moved from New York to California and rented an apartment in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles, in a Tudor style building at 120 N. Sweetzer. She lived a quiet life, alone.

The show was a success, but Rebecca would never live to enjoy it.

Robert John Bardo was the youngest of seven siblings, son of a former Air Force officer. He grew up in Tucson, Arizona, the object of much physical and mental abuse.

According to one of his teachers, Bardo was "a time bomb on the verge of exploding." When he was 13, Bardo took a bus to Maine in search of Samantha Smith, the child that became famous for sending a letter to Mikhail Gorbachov.

The authorities found him and returned him to Tucson.

Bardo became a good student, but wrote his teachers threatening letters. He was hospitalized two times because of "severe emotional damages."

At 16, while working as a janitor for a fast food restaurant, he found a better reality in television. In the fall of 1986, he became a fan of My Sister Sam.

In particular, Bardo began to be obsessed with the character "Patti," played by Rebecca Schaeffer. He built a shrine to her in his bedroom.

 She came into my life in the right moment. She was brilliant, pretty, outrageous, her innocence impressed me. She turned into a goddess for me, an idol. Since then, I turned an atheist, I only adored her.

- Robert John Bardo

Like millions of fans, Bardo started to write letters to her. Rebecca responded, writing that his letter was "the most beautiful" that she had ever received. On her letter, she drew a peace sign, a heart, and signed it: "With love from Rebecca." The day Bardo received the letter he wrote in his diary: When I think of her, I would like to become famous to impress her.

In June 1987, Bardo arrived at the Burbank Studio gates where My Sister Sam was produced, carrying a teddy bear and a bouquet of roses for Rebecca. The guard didn't let him in. Bardo returned a month later with a knife, but didn't gain entrance then either. In his diary, he wrote: "I don't lose. Period."

Bardo returned to Tucson. Later on, he saw her new film Class Struggle in Beverly Hills. In the movie, Rebecca had a bed scene with a male actor. This upset Bardo. He couldn't envision his innocent young girl being an adult woman. To him, she had become "one more of the bitches of Hollywood." Bardo decided Rebecca had to be punished for her immorality. He drew a diagram of her body and marked spots where he planned to shoot her. He asked his older brother, Edgar, to buy him a gun.

Robert Bardo, 21, bombarded Rebecca with swarms of love letters. He collected videos of Rebecca’s TV shows: Amazing Stories, My Sister Sam, One Life to Live. He bedecked his room with dozens of glossy publicity photos of the girl he lusted for. He mailed an ominous-sounding letter to his sister in Tennessee, telling her if he couldn’t have Rebecca, no one else would. He hopped a Hollywood-bound bus in Tucson, hell-bent on tracking her down.

On July 17, 1989, he called her agent’s office and tried to find out where she lived. Refused this information, he relentlessly roamed the streets, flashing her photo and asking passersby if they knew her address. He needlessly paid a private detective $250 to find her. For as little as $1, a person can go into any of California’s DMV offices, fill out Form 70 stating who they are, what person they want information on, the reason, and how they intend to use it. Even if they lie, the information is delivered on the spot.

Armed with this information, on July 18 1989, Bardo, dressed in a yellow Polo shirt, rang Schaeffer's doorbell. The intercom wasn't working, so she came downstairs to the apartment building's front door. She saw Bardo, and basically ignored his attention. He waited another hour and rang the bell again. Still in her housecoat, she returned to the front door, turned the handle and opened it.

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…"

A neighbor named Richard Goldman heard the two gunshots and two bloodcurdling screams and rushed to her door and found Schaeffer’s body clad in a black robe, twitching in the building’s foyer. He checked her pulse, but found none. Her arms were akimbo and her feet were wedged between the door and its frame. Witnesses saw a young man in a yellow shirt jogging up the Hollywood block. He turned into an alley and disappeared.

Sirens screaming, Rebecca was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. She lingered for 30 minutes before she died.

The next day, back in Tucson, several motorists called 911 to report a man running around in traffic on Interstate 10. It looked like he was trying to get hit. He confessed immediately to the murder. Arizona police faxed his photo to LA, and witnesses confirm his identity. In court, he appeared dazed and confused. "I could probably tell you what I did after I killed her, how I got sick and all...but I don’t feel like it," he said.

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."

When Bardo's sister heard about the murder, she contacted the police about her brother. He was extradited to California. Bardo defense attorneys pleaded he had an unstable mental condition due to childhood abuse.

Bardo was tried and convicted by prosecutor Marcia Clark, who would later become most famous for her unsuccessful attempts to prosecute O.J. Simpson.

Convicted of capital murder in a non-jury courtroom, Bardo was sentenced to life without parole by Superior Court Judge Dino Fulgoni on Dec. 20, 1991. Eyes flashing like Satanic neons, Bardo told the judge: "The idea I killed her for fame is totally ridiculous. I do realize the magnitude of what I’ve done. I don’t think it needs to be compounded by a bunch of lies because she’s an actress."

Schaeffer's murder and the Teresa Saldana assault case provoked Governor George Deukmejian to sign a law that prohibited the DMV from releasing addresses and inspired the Los Angeles Police Department to create the first Threat Management Team. The California law was passed in 1990 and became effective on the first day of 1991. The law was the first of its kind and later helped to convict Jonathan Norman, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison for attempting to carry out threats against director Steven Spielberg.

According to the legislation, a stalker is defined as "someone who willfully, maliciously and repeatedly follows or harasses another victim and who makes a credible threat with the intent to place the victim or victim's immediate family in fear of their safety." There must be at least two incidents to constitute the crime and show a "continuity of purpose" or credible threat.

By 1993, all states, as well as Canada, put anti-stalking laws into effect.

Be happy in jail!
- Dana Schaeffer, Rebecca's mother, to Bardo.


An Innocent Life, a Heartbreaking Death

Rebecca Schaeffer Was Living Every Young Actress's Dream—Until, Police Say, a Deluded Fan with a Gun Took It All Away

By Pete Axthelm -

July 31, 1989

She didn't have an enemy in the world," a friend said of actress Rebecca Schaeffer. And apparently it was no enemy who struck her down. The man charged with her murder, 19-year-old Robert John Bardo, was described by police as an obsessive fan.

A 21-year-old native of Portland, Ore., Schaeffer seemed to have a career on the rise. She had co-starred with Pam Dawber in the CBS sitcom My Sister Sam and recently finished a film directed by Dyan Cannon, One Point of View. She is currently onscreen in the comedy Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills. Charming and effervescent, she was living in a quiet neighborhood just east of that class struggle, L.A.'s middle-class Fairfax area, when she woke last Tuesday morning to a world full of opportunity.

The first sign of trouble came when her neighbors noticed a stranger in a yellow polo shirt wandering the streets. He carried a bulky manila folder and handled it gingerly, "Like it contained food and he didn't want to turn it over," as a witness later put it. From the package he would pull a glossy publicity photo of Schaeffer and ask passersby if they knew her and where she lived. "I just looked at him and said, 'What?' " says Irene Tishkoff, who encountered him outside a market. "He looked weird." Debbie Kennedy bumped into him twice. "It was strange seeing him twice," she says, "You think about it for a second, and then go your own way. That's what you do in L.A." Later he was seen talking to a cab driver outside the North Sweetzer Ave. building where Schaeffer lived. "Is this a house or an apartment building?" he was overheard to ask.

Not long thereafter, neighbors heard a shot and two screams. "It was bloodcurdling," says Richard Goldman, who lives across the street. Kenneth Newell, another neighbor, saw Schaeffer's body lying in her doorway. "Her eyes were open and glazed over," he says. "I took her pulse, and there was no beat." She had been shot once, in the chest. The man in the yellow shirt was seen jogging up the block. Half an hour later Schaeffer was pronounced dead at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

After the murder, but before an arrest was made, police and friends speculated that the killer was a deranged fan. "I can only assume that it was somebody who didn't know her but was obsessed with her," said Class Struggle director Paul Bartel. "I can't imagine that anybody who really knew her would do this. She was so mature and intuitive that she would have made sure this couldn't happen."

Bartel was right. On Wednesday morning, police in Tucson began receiving calls about a man behaving bizarrely and disrupting traffic at a major intersection. They arrived and found Bardo, a troubled and unemployed young man who last worked as a janitor at a Jack-in-the-Box. L.A. police said they had been tipped that Bardo might be their man by a friend of his in Tennessee; the friend said Bardo had told him about his obsession with Schaeffer, that he had written a love letter to her and that he had threatened to hurt her. Tucson police faxed Bardo's picture to L.A., and Schaeffer's neighbors identified him as the man who had been hanging around that morning.

The single dreadful bullet that hit Schaeffer conjured up the darkest nightmares of anyone who ever watched the red light atop the camera go on—anyone who ever realized that, among all those fans out there, some one of them might be mad.

The last man to shoot a President sprang first to mind. "You didn't wear your plaid skirt today," John Hinckley Jr. wrote in 1980 to his fantasy figure, the young actress Jodie Foster. "You have no right to disrupt our relationship in such a manner."

Months later the disturbed youth shot Ronald Reagan and critically wounded press secretary James Brady. His reason was framed in one of his many unanswered and scary letters to Foster: "You'll be proud of me, Jodie. Millions of Americans will love me—us." Part of what moved Hinckley to his crime, it later developed, was the murder of John Lennon at the hands of another deranged fan, Mark Chapman.

In the years since then, an uncomfortable number of people have been found to have experienced such twisted love and hate.

On the violent dark side of the law, an escaped convict named Daniel Vega threatened several celebrities and then stalked Donna Mills, the star of the prime-time soap Knots Landing. When Vega was cornered near Pasadena, Calif., and emerged with guns drawn, he was killed by police.

Last week, a woman was arraigned on charges—to which she pleaded not guilty—of sending more than 5,000 letters, including death threats, to Family Ties star Michael J. Fox. Tina Marie Ledbetter, 26, was allegedly upset because her idol had gotten married.

Even more frightening is the case of Ralph J. Nau, 34, an Illinois mental-ward inmate who was suspected of having killed his 8-year-old stepbrother with an ax but was acquitted of the crime. For complex legal reasons, Nau, who has twice trailed Olivia Newton-John to Australia, may be released this summer. He is considered so dangerous that an Assistant State's Attorney has sent warning letters to 40 celebrities who have figured in Nau's fantasy life.

Incidents of lesser celebrity harassments abound. Fortunately most are not hazardous to anyone's health. Everyone who has spent much time in the public eye knows that any public outing is likely to be interrupted and quiet conversation at a restaurant becomes a thing of the past. "We never had a dinner out when there weren't people at our table asking for autographs," says Shari Theismann, ex-wife of former star quarterback Joe. "[They want to tell you about] their devotion to the Redskins, how long they've had tickets, down to their personal problems. They just sit down and start telling you."

But few celebrities are prepared for the likes of Margaret M. Ray, who broke a window and made herself and her son at home at David Letterman's residence in New Canaan, Conn. She also tooled around in his Porsche for a few days while he was away.

In Canada pop singer Anne Murray was bothered for years by a farmer named Robert Kieling. After numerous prior convictions for harassment, Kieling was convicted once again this year after calling Murray 263 times in six months.

"The cult of celebrity provides archetypes and icons with which alienated souls can identify," says psychologist Marilyn Robinette Marx. "On top of that, this country has been embarking for a long time on a field experiment in the use of violence on TV. It is commonplace to watch people getting blown away. We've given the losers in life or sex a rare chance to express their dominance."

Gavin de Becker, an L.A. security expert who helps stars ward off unwanted attentions, thinks the problem is increasing. "It's getting much worse," says de Becker. "It's because of the emphasis on the personal lives of media figures, particularly on television. And this has blurred the line between appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Nowhere in history could you completely 'know' someone like you can now 'know' Johnny Carson."

Schaeffer's death was particularly shocking. Her personality, by all accounts, made her seem like a dream. The only child of a psychologist and a writer, Rebecca was a good student at Portland's Lincoln High. But as a 15-year-old sophomore, she heard so much about her glowing beauty that she ventured into modeling.

"I took one look and fell in love with her," recalls Nannette Troutman, owner of the first talent agency that Schaeffer approached. "She had a fresh charismatic way about her and was very gorgeous, with big brown eyes, dimples and a beautiful smile." After doing some local commercials and working as an extra on a TV movie, Rebecca headed for New York City to seek an acting career.

Douglas Ashe, then at the Prestige modeling agency, was her first guide. "I went to Portland about five years ago and I saw this nice, clean kid," he says. "She was very serious about what she did. We had her room with six other models, and she was always this good kid who never lost her friends or her perspective."

The buoyancy and the bright image were rewarded quickly. Soon Rebecca was a cover girl on Seventeen. Then she was called to Los Angeles for a screen test for My Sister Sam. She had also had her phone disconnected because she couldn't pay the bill. She didn't have to bother: Her agent taped a note on her door to tell her she had her start toward becoming a star.

Even as the career took off, Schaeffer remained an unspoiled charmer from Oregon. "She was extremely curious and spirited," says Sean Six, an actor from Portland who dated her last year. "We'd travel, go to parks, have picnics. She liked to horseback ride or just spend time on a mountaintop. She was the only actor I've ever known who managed to become successful and remain unjaded."

Actress Michael Michele, who roomed with Schaeffer several years ago on West 62nd Street in New York City, says, "She was the intellect that sat you down and told you what the city was all about. I don't want to say she was fearless. But she wasn't affected by the big city or intimidated by the power."

A few minority voices wondered if she was trying to take on too much too soon. "I taught her in a class of 20, five hours a day, three times a week," recalls acting teacher Robert Modica. "She was 17 or 18. Then when she got the job in California, she rented a house by herself. I told her, 'You shouldn't be living by yourself.' She said she didn't mind. She liked it, but it was lonely. There was a scared-ness, a loneliness about Rebecca."

Ex-boyfriend Six agrees: "She lived a very quiet life. She was sensitive, kind of a loner."

But, sometimes tragically, celebrities are not allowed the luxury of being alone. Schaeffer discovered that last Tuesday morning, when the bell rang in her apartment. Because her intercom was out of order, she came to the door in person. And why not? How much risk could there be in a neighborhood free of crack dealers and street hustlers?

What she encountered was a curly-haired white male whom neighbors described as nondescript.

He killed her with a single shot.

Afterward he jogged almost casually up the bright California block, turned into an alley and disappeared. The sorrow and devastation he left behind made it very clear, to paraphrase a lyric from songwriter Kinky Friedman, that they have raised the price of fame.



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