Losing one’s parents is something many children fear, have nightmares about and worry about. One can lose loved ones anytime, whether during childhood or later, but when a relationship is severed violently and suddenly, it is always harder to cope. No. 4 on this list is an intelligent man who lived for years as a homeless alcoholic before turning his life around, and accredits this to the loss he suffered as a child when one of his parents was murdered. Two others, also children when their mothers were killed, helped solve the cases themselves as adults through their tenaciousness. One story is like a backwards version of the Oscar Pistorius tale: what happened when the South-African wife defended herself.
Most of the homicides on this list involved guns, and one of the children left behind is an advocate against having guns in homes, no wonder! But for anyone with a penchant for the board-game Clue, there is also stabbing and strangulation. Unfortunately, the lives cut short here were not fictional.
Some of these deaths occurred because the victim was mixed up in something illegal or hung out with questionable people; others were stranger-induced. That said, 40% of the crimes listed below were perpetrated by a loved-one or former loved-one. This is in keeping with what the authorities on cop shows always say: about 50% of homicides occur in the home. Who are the unlucky ten on our list that know firsthand what this type of tragedy brings? If these terrible occurrences could be stopped, you’d never read about such things.
Here are ten celebrities who went through tragedies none of us should ever have to face:
10. Michael Jordan: Father murdered during car theft
James R. Jordan, Sr., was the victim of a car theft when he pulled into a North Carolina rest stop after attending a funeral. While he was napping two men spotted his car, a red Lexus SC400, which his son Michael had given him. The men stole the vehicle, likely with Jordan in it; his body was found some weeks later in a swamp and it took ten days for him to be identified. The men, Daniel Green and Larry Demery, used his cell phone and were easily apprehended. They had figured out who they had killed because of two NBA rings they stole from the victim. Demery insisted they were only to tie him up, but that his accomplice shot the man. Both were sentenced to life in prison.
9. Sean Combs aka Puff Daddy: Father likely murdered by criminal associate
Melvin Combs, father of the rapper known alternately as Diddy and Puff Daddy, was killed in New York while sitting in a car. He was just 33-years-old, and baby Sean was three. He does not remember much about his father. For the first time last year, Sean opened up about his dad’s death, revealing that the man had been a hustler and known associate of convicted drug dealer, Frank Lucas. Puff Daddy says although he never really knew his father, he played a large role in his life, as the rapper learned early on there were few avenues for him, and that made him work extra hard to get out of the life he had been born into. They say something good comes from everything, and in this case, it seems it’s true. Who knows where Sean would be now if his father had been a daily influence in his life! Still, our condolences.
8. Dylan McDermott: Mother murdered by boyfriend
It doesn’t come much tougher than this: Aged 5, Dylan McDermott (born Mark Anthony McDermott) was outside his home when he heard a gunshot. His grandmother took him and his baby sister in, and told them their mother was in hospital, not revealing for a whole year that she had actually died. Forty years later, the actor, who remembered violent scenes from his childhood, insisted Connecticut police reopen the case. It turns out the woman was murdered by her boyfriend, a known gangster and heroin junkie, but the police covered up the murder because the man, John Sponza, was a regular informant and they were trying to make a bigger case. The murder occurred in 1967 and Sponza was never held accountable, as he was found dead in the trunk of a car in 1972. Guess he got his…
7. Dave Navarro: Mother murdered by boyfriend
A founding member of the alternative band Jane’s Addiction, this guitarist and singer/songwriter was also formerly with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. At the age of 16, Dave lost his mother when she was murdered by her boyfriend, John Riccardi. It was not until 8 years later that Riccardi was arrested, thanks to a viewer tip after the musician appeared on America’s Most Wanted. Originally from Santa Monica, Navarro’s dad was Mexican-American, but as a child Navarro was raised mostly by his mom, Constance Hopkins. After her murder he moved in with his father.
6. Kelsey Grammer: Father & sister murdered in separate incidents years apart
The actor who played neurotic psychiatrist Frasier Crane on Cheers and on the follow-up sitcom Frasier has had a string of terrible luck. When he was 13, Grammer‘s father Frank was shot outside his home after being drawn out when his car was on fire. Arthur B. Niles, the perpetrator, was deemed as having been clinically insane at the time of the murder, and so did not get the death penalty. To make matters more than worse, seven years later, when Grammer was 20, his 18-year-old sister was gang-raped by four men and then murdered by the ringleader, Freddie Lee Glenn. Glenn was up for parole in 2009, but when Grammer spoke against his release, parole was not granted.
5. Julian and Sean Lennon: Father murdered by former fan
Beatles singer John Lennon would be 70 this year, if alive. At the age of just 40, he was shot and killed by Mark David Chapman, a fan bordering on obsessive, who after reportedly doing heroin and LSD as a teen had what was described as a religious experience when he met a Californian evangelist. The Texan youth stopped doing drugs and became a born-again Christian. Chapman was supposedly angry after John Lennon was quoted as saying: “We’re more popular than Jesus Christ now.” He stopped listening to the band, and in 1980 waited outside Lennon’s New York City apartment building, shooting the star in the back four times. Whatever one’s beliefs that’s not what Christ, as he is portrayed, would have done. The murder left behind Lennon’s lasting legacy, and left two sons without their father.
4. James Ellroy: Mother’s murder never solved
Crime writer James Ellroy (The Black Dahlia, L.A. Confidential, The Cold Six Thousand, etc.) was 10 when his mother was strangled to death in California, where they lived, after being picked up in a bar. The author, who has a sharp wit, is very open about how this influenced his career as a writer. He credits the circumstances and the untimely death of his mother, along with reading Jack Webb’s The Badge as a young person, as being the reason he is what (and who) he is today. As a young man he became obsessed with the gruesome unsolved murder of L.A.’s Elizabeth Short, (nicknamed The Black Dahlia), which took place before he was born.
3. Patrick Duffy: Parents murdered during robbery
Montana born and raised by parents who owned a tavern, this screen star is best known for his role as Bobby Ewing in Dallas, although he has done much more. In 1986 two teenaged gunmen, Kenneth Miller and Sean Wentz, robbed Duffy’s parents late one night at the Montana bar they owned, killing them in the process. After 15 years of a 75-year prison sentence, Wentz admitted that he was the sole gunman, and in 2007 Miller was paroled. Duffy, who was 37 when the murders occurred, is a Buddhist, along with his wife of the last 40 years.
2. Charlize Theron: Mother killed father in self-defense
Raised in South Africa, Charlize Theron was 15 when she witnessed her mother shoot her father in self-defense. The teen was just home from boarding school when an aunt called to warn Charlize’s mother that her husband and his brother had been drinking and were extremely agitated. Charlize’s alcoholic father reportedly shot into the house and then into Charlize’s bedroom while the young girl was inside, yelling that he was going to kill both his wife and daughter. Her mother got her own handgun and shot both men, killing her husband and wounding his brother. Theron says her mother’s actions were absolutely necessary, but believes guns should not be allowed so easily in family dwellings.
1. Jennifer Hudson: Mother, brother and nephew killed by brother-in-law
How do terrible things happen to anyone, much less to good people? In 2008, Jennifer Hudson’s estranged brother-in-law, William Balfour, broke into the home of his wife, Julia, Hudson’s older sister. He shot and killed the women’s 57-year-old mother, Darnell Donnerson, as well as their 29-year-old brother Jason. Hudson’s seven-year-old nephew Julian was reported missing the same day by his mother, Julia; his body was found in Chicago’s west side three days later with multiple gunshot wounds. Balfour was convicted on all three murders and is serving three consecutive life sentences, plus another 120 years for other crimes. He is in Illinois’ Stateville Correctional Center and has no possibility of parole.