While murder, courtroom drama and intrigue all play a role in Hollywood films and on television, it’s far more rare for those plot tropes to find their way into the personal lives of Tinsel Town’s stars. Sure, there is always scandal, whether it be sex, drugs, lies or videotape (or all four), but murder and manslaughter are very rarely a part of the equation.
For the unfortunate few Hollywood and Television actors who have indeed committed, and been convicted of causing death, intentional or otherwise, the repercussions on their careers have varied widely. Some have all but disappeared off the entertainment landscape, others remained relatively unscathed, and a select few will spend the rest of their lives behind bars. One changed history. Here are 10 actors convicted of killing someone in one way or another.
10 Rebecca Gayheart
Back in the 1990s Rebecca Gayheart seemed poised to have it all in Hollywood. She has had recurring roles on Beverly Hills 90210 and Wasteland, while also starring in the feature teen slasher film Urban Legend. Gayheart also signed a lucrative endorsement deal with skincare product manufacturer Noxema. All that came to a grinding halt in June of 2001 when Gayheart, driving through Los Angeles, struck a nine-year-old boy, killing him. Gayheart plead no contest to vehicular manslaughter and faced three years probation, a suspended licence, fines and community service. Furthermore, her career also took a hit, with only three films and a handful of television show appearances to her credit since.
9 Matthew Broderick
Carrie Bradshaw’s husband also killed someone while driving his car, accompanied by then-girlfriend and Dirty Dancing star Jennifer Grey. In 1987 while on vacation in Ireland, Broderick left his lane and drove his car head on into an oncoming vehicle, killing the mother and daughter inside. While Grey claimed that the accident and subsequent guilt is what drove her from Hollywood for over two decades, Broderick claimed in absentia, avoiding all legal ramifications for his actions, and continued his Hollywood career unscathed.
8 Brynn Hartman
In a tragic domestic murder-suicide, Brynn Hartman, who had small roles in various sitcoms, including 3Rd Rock From the Sun, is far less know than the husband she murdered, Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons alum comedian Phil Hartman. Apparently, amidst marital discord, Brynn had relapsed on drugs, and on the night of May 27 she waited for Phil Hartman to fall asleep then shot him three times, including twice in the head. After confessing to various friends about the murder of her husband, Brynn eventually locked herself in the bathroom of her home, and after police had removed her children, she took her own life.
7 Lane Garrison
At one point in his life, former Prison Break actor Lane Garrison lived with Joe Simpson, father of Jessica and Ashlee, and saw the minister as a mentor. Whether thoughts of those days escaped him or not, in 2006 Garrison was driving drunk and high on cocaine with a teenage passenger when his SUV crashed, killing the 17-year-old. Garrison was charged with vehicular homicide, DUI and providing alcohol to a minor. He was sentenced to over three years in prison, of which he served one and a half, and later went to rehab. Though his career was nothing noteworthy, minus his 14-episode stint on Prison Break, it has been even less so since.
6 John Huston
Legendary actor, director and screenwriter John Huston was the father of the equally legendary actress Anjelica Huston, and a 15-time nominated and two-time Academy Award winner. Despite his illustrious film career, which produced numerous classics, including The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, when John Huston was a 27-year-old screenwriter beginning his career in Hollywood in 1933, Huston was responsible for the death of a female pedestrian after he struck her with his car at an intersection in Los Angeles. There were no charges filed against him following an investigation, and Huston continued his decades-long career.
5 Johnny Lewis
Johnny Lewis, known as “Half Sack” to Sons of Anarchy fans, was another young actor who seemed to be poised to make a name for himself in Hollywood. With roles in many feature films and television shows, Lewis raised his profile considerably with his two-season stint on Sons of Anarchy, but sadly, not long after his departure from the show Lewis began exhibiting increasingly erratic behaviour, which his father has attributed to a mental health issue. The battle with substance abuse Lewis had couldn’t have helped the issues the young man faced though, on the night of his death no substances were found in his blood. In late September 2012, Lewis broke into his landlady’s home, destroyed the house and killed both his landlady and her cat. After fleeing, Lewis ended up on the roof of the home where he either fell, or jumped to his death.
4 Charles S. Dutton
Charles S. Dutton may very well have come by his commanding on-screen demeanor honestly. Before he was the actor famous for roles in Rudy and A Time To Kill among many other films, Dutton was a high school drop out and amateur boxer, who, at age 17 stabbed a man to death in a street fight. For his crime Dutton was sentenced to seven years in prison for manslaughter. After serving his first prison term, Dutton was arrested and sentenced to three more years in prison for possession of a deadly weapon. It was in solitary confinement during his second stint in prison where Dutton decided to turn his life around, finish school and pursue acting.
3 Robert Blake
The iconic star of the Television show Baretta, Robert Blake’s nearly 60-year career in Hollywood began as a child playing a little rascal and ended with him on trial for murder in the death of his second wife, Bonnie Lee Bakley. It is alleged that Blake conspired to have his wife, whom he once called “a con artist,” killed and he subsequently went on trial for murder, solicitation to commit murder and conspiracy to commit murder. After a lengthy trial, Blake was eventually, and controversially, acquitted of the charges in his wife’s death. His inclusion on this list is based largely on the fact that no one has ever been remotely connected to the crime otherwise, and a Civil Court found him liable in the wrongful death of Bakley and ordered him to pay $30 million in damages, making Blake the new millennium version of O.J. Simpson.
2 Skylar Deleon
Hardly much of an actor if we’re being honest. Skylar Deleon had a bit part on the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers when he was 14, and though he attempted a career in acting initially, at age 20 the Marines briefly caught his attention. Very briefly. He was given an Other Than Honorable Discharge after going AWOL only 15 days into service. From there, substance abuse led Deleon down a deadly path, first slitting a man’s throat and burying him in Mexico, and then, along with his then wife and two accomplices, killing a couple in order to steal their yacht. In a case that garnered much media attention, Deleon and his crew convinced the yacht's owners they wished to purchase it, and asked to take it for a test drive. At sea, Deleon forced the yacht-owning couple to transfer the ownership to him, and then tied them to the yacht's anchor and threw them overboard, alive. For his role in the murders, plus the one he committed previously, Deleon received the death penalty.
1 John Wilkes Booth
One of, if not the most famous assassins of all time was also an actor. Before he murdered a President, Booth was a stage actor and quite a good one too apparently. Known as the “most handsome man in America,” “a natural genius” and a “muscular, perfect man” John Wilkes Booth was actually quite the star, pulling in over $20,000 a year as an actor in the 1850s.
Once Civil War came to America in the 1860s Booth, a very strong anti-abolitionist became increasingly involved in Pro-confederate movements in his very much divided home state of Maryland. As the tide of war shifted ever closer to the Union by 1864, Booth had begun to hate himself for not enlisting in the Confederate Army, and as his hatred for President Abraham Lincoln grew, his plans grew more brazen as well. He first planned to kidnap the President, but ultimately settled on his assassination following Lincoln’s re-election in 1864.
Ironically, it was because of his noted career as an actor that Booth was able to walk freely throughout the entire Ford’s Theatre, where, on April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth stepped into President Abraham Lincoln’s private box and shot him in the back of the head. John Wilkes Booth may still be talked about today on his acting merits alone, famous as he was 150 years ago, but his committing one of the most famous assassinations in history certainly secures his legacy in history.