“My Sister Sam” star Rebecca Schaeffer was an up-and-coming actress until Robert John Bardo, an obsessed fan, killed her. The crime only cost him $250.
Born in November 1967, Rebecca Schaeffer’s steady rise in the entertainment industry began in the mid-80s with appearances in “One Life to Live” and “Amazing Stories.” However, her life changed after being cast as Patti Russell in “My Sister Sam.”
Rebecca Schaeffer and Robert John Bardo, the murderer. | Photo: Getty Images
REBECCA SCHAEFFER’S HOPEFUL CAREER
Acting opposite Pam Dawber, Schaeffer became a national sensation who even graced the cover of Seventeen magazine in March 1987. By the time the show was canceled in 1988, she had already melted everybody’s hearts.
After “My Sister Sam,” Schaeffer kept booking parts in films and TV, including “Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills,” released in June 1989, and “The End of Innocence,” directed by Oscar-nominated actress Dyan Cannon.
Promotional photo of Rebecca Schaeffer circa 1987 | Photo: Wikimedia Commons Images
The most significant proof that a career breakthrough was just around the corner for Schaeffer was that she was running for the main role in “Pretty Woman,” the film that established Julia Roberts as Hollywood’s leading lady.
Apart from that, she was getting ready to audition for the role of Michael Corleone’s daughter, Mary (Sofia Coppola’s character), in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather Part III.”
Press photo of Rebecca Schaeffer | Photo: YouTube/Entertainment Weekly
Unfortunately, her bright career and life were cut short on July 18, 1989, by 19-year-old Robert John Bardo, an obsessed fan who traveled about 500 miles just to kill her in the doorway of her apartment building.
Bardo hired a private investigator to get Schaeffer’s address in Los Angeles.
Robert John Bardo, Rebecca Schaeffer's murderer, in court | Photo: YouTube/Grunge
Bardo’s unhealthy fascination began after seeing Schaeffer in “My Sister Sam.” He tried to meet her for the first time in 1987 when he traveled from Tucson, Arizona, to California to give the actress a teddy bear and flowers.
At the time, he didn’t know where she lived, so he went to the Warner Bros. studio but was turned away by a security guard. Bardo’s admiration turned deadly after watching her love scene in “Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills.”
He felt betrayed and thought she was supposed to “stay innocent” for him. So, he decided not only to punish her but also “possess” her by taking her life, the clinical police and forensic psychologist Dr. Kris Mohandie explained.
Rebecca Schaeffer and Pam Dawber in "My Sister Sam" | Photo: YouTube/Entertainment Weekly
Bardo tried to buy a gun, but he told the store owner he had a history of mental illness, so he was turned away. Then he persuaded his older brother Edward to get one, and he did.
It is essential to point out that Edward didn’t know about Bardo’s plan. He thought it was for target shooting and even ordered Bardo to use it only when they were together.
Rebecca Schaeffer during the early years of her career | Photo: YouTube/Grunge
Weeks before getting the gun, Bardo hired a private investigator to get Schaeffer’s address in Los Angeles. He paid only $250. The criminal told the PI that she was an old friend and he wanted to send her a gift.
With the actress’ address in his mind and a gun in his bag, Bardo went to California again. After confirming that she lived where the PI said, he showed up at her front door.
Since Schaeffer was expecting the script for “The Godfather Part III,” she opened the door and saw Bardo. Initially, he showed her a letter and an autographed photo and admitted to being her biggest fan.
Rebecca Schaeffer in an interview | Photo: YouTube/Grunge
She politely told him she needed to prepare for an interview and asked him to leave. He had breakfast at a nearby diner and returned to her house.
Bardo was surprised that Schaeffer felt that he was bothering her, especially because she asked him to hurry up during his second visit. That’s when he pulled the trigger.
Robert John Bardo arrested circa July 1989 | Photo: YouTube/Grunge
After Schaeffer’s murder, anti-stalking laws became tougher. Stalking is now a crime, public access to addresses from driving records in California is restricted, and a specialized LAPD unit is in place to keep passionate fans away.
The world lost a promising actress and a wonderful human being at the hands of an obsessed man. At the moment, Bardo is serving life in prison without the possibility of parole. Rest in peace, Rebecca Schaeffer.
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