There is no question that some celebrities live exuberant and extraordinary lifestyles. For us “normal people” it is this unique way of life that makes living vicariously through celebrities so attractive. Some fans need to be constantly kept “in-the-know” on even the most typical and meaningless activities when it comes to our favorite celebs, as we can never predict when something truly astounding will happen to the lifestyles of the rich and famous.
However, fans might be even more astounded to learn just how many of their favorite celebrities have either been accused and/or convicted of murder. Some of the most popular celebrities have been involved in tragic manslaughter accidents, while others will be forever linked to dreadful murder cases.
Some celebrities have served time in prison stemming from these convictions, while others more or less got away with murder. In some cases, it’s extremely uplifting to learn about how some celebrities were able to learn from their horrendous mistakes and managed to literally turn their lives around before it was too late. That being said, it’s as equally depressing to see other celebrities continued down a path of violent and reckless behavior, refusing or unable to change their ways which tragically resulted in innocent lives being lost.
The following are 15 celebrities linked to murder investigations:
15. Snoop Dogg
Most people probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that as a teenager Snoop Dogg frequently found himself on the wrong side of the law. Shortly after graduating from high school Snoop was arrested for possession of cocaine and spent the next three years in and out of prison.
While recording Doggystyle, Snoop was arrested in connection with the death of a rival gang member who was shot and killed by Snoop’s bodyguard. Snoop was subsequently charged with murder because he was driving the vehicle from which the shooting took place. Snoop hired famous defense lawyer Johnnie Cochran and was eventually acquitted.
14. Don King
Don King is rightfully considered by some to be a “shady” character as many of his ex-clients have sued him for allegedly defrauding them. Regardless, King has still promoted some of the most prominent names in boxing, including Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Félix Trinidad, and Roy Jones Jr.
But, did you know that the “The Rumble in the Jungle” and the “Thrilla in Manila” promoter was once charged with killing two people in two separate incidents? All the way back in 1954, King shot a man in the back after spotting him trying to rob one of King’s gambling houses which was ultimately ruled a justifiable homicide. And then in 1967, King was convicted of non-negligent manslaughter for stomping one of his employees to death. King ended up being convicted and serving less than four years in prison. It should be noted though that King was later pardoned after being released.
13. Duane “Dog” Chapman
Duane Chapman is best known as Dog the Bounty Hunter from his A&E reality show, the program showcased his exploits as a bounty hunter, and followed Dog and his family as they tracked down wanted criminals.
Back in 1976, “Dog” actually found himself in trouble with the law as one of Chapman’s friends shot a man named Jerry Oliver to death when they went to his house to buy marijuana. Chapman was convicted of first degree murder and served 18 months of a five-year sentence for being outside waiting in the car when the shooting took place. His career as a bounty hunter was his way of giving back, trying to help those who were also struggling with the law.
12. Johnny Lewis
Johnny Lewis was best known for his roles in such movies as Aliens vs Predator: Requiem and The Runaways, as well as for his work on the television show Sons of Anarchy.
In 2011, Lewis refused to undergo MRI tests after suffering head injuries from a high-speed motorcycle accident. Lewis’ family even helped schedule two appointments, but each time, Lewis refused to undergo the tests. Accordingly to his father, Lewis started manifesting bizarre and illogical behavior from that point on and refused to seek psychiatric help.
In 2012, Lewis broke into the home of 81-year-old Catherine Davis who also happened to be his landlady. Evidently Lewis ransacked the elderly woman’s home, then killed her and her cat. Lewis then fell or jumped to his death from the roof. An autopsy report showed that Lewis had no drugs or alcohol in his system when he died.
11. Aaron Hernandez
Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez has had many bouts with the law, eventually escalating to a first degree murder conviction in 2015 for the death of Odin Lloyd. Lloyd’s body was found in an industrial park about a mile from Hernandez’s house with multiple gunshot wounds to the back and chest.
The Massachusetts State Police obtained a search warrant to search Hernandez’s house after evidence surfaced that he deliberately destroyed his home security system. Also, Hernandez’s cell phone was turned over to police in various pieces and perhaps even more damning is that Hernandez allegedly paid to have his house thoroughly cleaned the same day Lloyd’s body was discovered. All of these facts ultimately raised additional suspicions, resulting in his arrest and subsequent conviction.
10. Charles S. Sutton
You might remember actor Charles S. Dutton from such films as Rudy and Alien 3, but many don’t know that when Dutton was 17, he got into a fight with another man and killed him. Dutton was convicted of manslaughter and spent seven years in prison. Unfortunately, he was arrested again several months after being released due to possession of a deadly weapon. Dutton was then sentenced back to jail for three years in prison.
However, while in jail Dutton decided to turn his life around by first gaining his high school equivalency diploma with good grades. Dutton then went on to complete a two-year college program at Hagerstown Junior College, graduating with an Associate of Arts degree. Following his release, Dutton enrolled as a drama major at Towson State University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree and finally after graduating from Towson, Dutton went on to earn his master’s degree in acting from Yale School of Drama. Talk about turning your life around!
9. J.R. Smith
Cleveland Cavaliers player J.R. Smith has a long history of reckless driving. For example, Smith totaled 27 points against his driver’s record from 2005 to 2006, including eight violations on seven different days.
Sadly, in 2007, things would only get worse when Smith drove through a stop sign, causing an accident that killed the passenger in his vehicle. Smith was sentenced to 90 days in jail after pleading guilty to vehicular manslaughter. Smith’s story is a prime example of repeated reckless behavior eventually escalating in someone’s death. Smith only ended up serving 30 days in jail, despite his deadly error in judgment.
8. Lillo Brancato Jr
In the 1990s, Lillo Brancato Jr. acted in three films: A Bronx Tale, Renaissance Man, and played a minor role in Crimson Tide with Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman. Also, fans of The Sopranos will likely remember Brancato as Matthew Bevilaqua, a young mobster associated with Tony Soprano’s crime syndicate.
In 2005, Brancato went from just playing a character on the wrong side of the law to being arrested for the murder of an off-duty police officer in his real life. Brancato was found not guilty of second-degree murder, he was convicted of first-degree attempted burglary and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Brancato was released from prison on parole on December 31, 2013.
7. Mark Wahlberg
Perhaps the most popular celebrity on this list, so it will likely come to a shock for some that Mark Wahlberg was once charged with attempted murder.
Before Wahlberg became a famous rapper, model, and actor known for dropping his pants and showing off his Calvins, he was charged with attempted murder after he was involved in a violent robbery. Wahlberg was only 16 at the time but was still tried as an adult. Wahlberg plead guilty to a lesser charge of assault and served 45 days in prison. Wahlberg credits the experience for “scaring him straight” and after the ordeal, he began to turn his life around.
6. Rebecca Gayheart
For fans of the show Beverly Hills, 90210, Rebecca Gayheart will always be best known for playing Antonia Marchette, one of Luke Perry‘s character’s main love interests. To be fair, Gayheart has also gone on to play roles in a number of television shows such Sliders, Dead Like Me, Nip/Tuck, Vanished, CSI:Miami, and Ugly Betty.
Sadly, in 2001, Gayheart accidentally struck a nine-year-old boy with her vehicle and as a result the boy passed away the following day from his injuries. Gayheart pleaded no contest to vehicular manslaughter and was sentenced to three years of probation, a one-year suspension of her license, a $2,800 fine, and 750 hours of community service, but no jail time.
5. Jayson Williams
In 1992, famous basketball player Jayson Williams was accused of breaking a beer mug over a patron’s head at a bar in Chicago. Two years later, he was accused of firing a semiautomatic weapon into the parking lot at the Meadowlands Sports Complex. Williams was never criminally charged in either of those cases.
Williams was widely known as a bench player for most of his career, but in the 1997-98 NBA season, Williams had a career year as a member of the Nets. He lead the league in offensive rebounds and offensive rebound percentage. Williams also finished the season in the top five in total rebounds, rebounds per game, total rebound percentage, and offensive rating. In this same season Williams would go on to play in his first and only All-Star game selection.
In 2002, ten years after the “beer mug incident,” Williams accidentally shot his driver while playing with a gun. Williams was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment but only served 18-months before being released.
4. Felicia Pearson
Most people will recognize Felicia Pearson from the highly touted show The Wire, where she played a cold-blooded gangster. Pearson’s real-life childhood was even more extreme and shocking than the character she played on TV.
Pearson was born a premature crack baby weighing only 3 pounds. She was the daughter of two incarcerated drug addicts and was raised in a foster home. Pearson eventually became involved with gangs and drug dealing. At the age of 14, she was convicted of second degree murder after the shooting of a girl named Okia Toomer. Pearson was sentenced to two eight-year terms, but was released after six and a half years.
Pearson said her life turned around at the age of 18 when Arnold Loney, a local drug dealer who had always looked out for her and even sent her money in prison, was shot and killed. While in prison, Pearson earned her GED and was released in 2000.
3. Phil Spector
Phil Spector, the iconic record producer known for working with such legendary bands as the Beatles and the Ramones was accused of murder in 2003. Actress Lana Clarkson was found shot to death in his mansion, but Spector claimed she had killed herself.
The story goes that after meeting at the House of Blues, Clarkson and Spector went to his mansion together via limousine early in the morning on February 3, 2003. Evidently, Spector and Clarkson went inside while his driver waited outside in the car. Approximately an hour later the driver heard a gunshot before Spector exited his house through the back door with a gun. Spector went on to claim that Clarkson’s death was an accidental suicide.
From 2007 to 2009, Spector was the subject of a trial and retrial for the 2003 murder of Clarkson. Spector was eventually convicted of murder in the second degree and is serving 19 years. He will be 88 years old before becoming eligible for parole.
2. Robert Blake
In 1999, Robert Blake met Bonnie Lee Bakley who apparently had a history of exploiting older men for money. At the time she was also dating Christian Brando (son of Marlon Brando). Bakley became pregnant and told both Brando and Blake that her baby was theirs. Blake and Bakley were married on November 91, 2000 after DNA tests proved that Blake was the biological father of her child. It was his second marriage and her tenth.
In 2001, Blake took Bakley out for dinner, white sitting in the vehicle which was parked on a side street nearby to the restaurant, Bakley was shot and subsequently died from a gunshot wound to the head. Blake claimed that he had returned to the restaurant to collect a gun which he had previously left at the restaurant and claimed that he had not been present when the shooting took place. The gun that Blake claimed he had left in the restaurant was found and later determined by police not to be the murder weapon that killed Bakley.
In 2002, Blake was arrested and charged with the murder of his wife. A key event that gave the LAPD the confidence to arrest Blake came when Ronald “Duffy” Hambleton, a retired stuntman agreed to testify against Blake. Hambleton claimed that Blake tried to hire him to kill Bakley and in fact another retired stuntman, Gary McLarty, also came forward with a similar story.
However, in 2005, Blake was found not guilty of the murder of Bonnie Lee Bakley and not guilty of one of the two counts of solicitation of murder due to a lack physical evidence.
1. OJ Simpson
Perhaps the poster child for “Celebrities Linked to Murder Investigations,” in 1994, O.J. Simpson was arrested and charged with the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ronald Goldman. Though Simpson was eventually found not guilty, many believe that Simpson literally got away with murder.
Simpson was represented by a high-profile defense team, referred to as the “Dream Team,” which was ultimately led by defense lawyer Johnnie Cochran. Simpson’s lawyers were able to convince the jurors that there was reasonable doubt about the DNA evidence and alleged misconduct by the Los Angeles Police Department. The “trial of the century” captivated television audiences for 11 months and when the “not guilty” verdict was finally read on October 3, 1995 the nation was clearly divided.
Simpson would later be forced to pay the Brown and Goldman families $33.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages from a civil lawsuit. Simpson was ultimately declared responsible for the deaths of Nicole and Brown and Ronald Goldman.