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Sonny Bono’s Death Cause Was Revealed Back in 1998, Later the FBI Agent Called It ‘Nonsense'

Esther NJeri
Nov 09, 2021
07:40 P.M.

Sonny Bono loved skiing, and trips to the ski resorts of Palm Springs were always his way of spending time with his family. One skiing trip to the Nevada-California line, however, turned out to be his last.

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Sonny Bono was an American politician, actor, and singer, who came to the limelight after partnering with his second wife Cher to create the pop singing duo “Sonny & Cher.”

The couple was thrust into fame when they produced their two hit songs, “I Got You, Babe” and “Baby Don’t Go,” in 1965. They continued to touch the hearts of many Americans through their music.

Left: Singer and actress Cher poses with ex-husband Sonny Bono for a photo session on July 22, 1977 in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Getty Images. Right: During Bono's funeral :Source: YouTube/AP Archive

Left: Singer and actress Cher poses with ex-husband Sonny Bono for a photo session on July 22, 1977 in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Getty Images. Right: During Bono's funeral :Source: YouTube/AP Archive

The ’70s saw the duo debuting their careers as media personalities with “The Sonny & Cher Show” and “Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour.” In the decade they were together, they were nominated for two Grammy Awards.

They sold over 40 million records worldwide. Their career as a duo, however, was terminated when they got divorced in 1975.

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Following their split, Cher embarked on a solo career that would become highly successful. In contrast, Bono was elected into Congress as the Republican U.S, Representative from California.

Sonny Bono and his 4th wife Mary Whitaker on January 1, 1991 in the kitchen of their Palm Springs home | Photo: Getty Images

Sonny Bono and his 4th wife Mary Whitaker on January 1, 1991 in the kitchen of their Palm Springs home | Photo: Getty Images

In 1986, Bono married his fourth wife, Mary Whitaker, and together, they had two children, daughter Chianna Maria and son Chesare Elan.

BONO’S FINAL DAY

On one fateful Monday afternoon in 1998, Bono and his wife Mary, together with their children, had gone to the Heavenly Ski Resort for a short vacation.

Congress was on a New Years’ break, and the family of four, together with some friends, were having fun as they ushered in the new year. Bono was a renowned proficient skier and would frequent skiing resorts with his family.

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Cher and Sonny Bono pose for a promotional photo for "The Sonny and Cher Show" in 1970. | Source: Getty Images

Cher and Sonny Bono pose for a promotional photo for "The Sonny and Cher Show" in 1970. | Source: Getty Images

A spokesman for the resort, John Wagnon, said that Bono was skiing the well-groomed intermediate run referred to as “Orion.” The run is said to have had ideal conditions as it was reasonably open and lined with trees.

Bono skied on ahead as his wife took the rear to ensure the kids were in front of her as she would be better placed to see and help them if the need arose.

“The Beat Goes On” singer was soon off, a big smile on his face. Not realizing that these would be the last moments he spent with his family, he challenged his son, calling out for Chesare to follow him.

Cher and Sonny Bono during their performance in London on September 2, 1966. | Source: Getty Images

Cher and Sonny Bono during their performance in London on September 2, 1966. | Source: Getty Images

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Chesare took off behind his father, but his ski got caught on an edge. He spun around, hitting Chianna, and so Mary made haste to attend to them. Bono was long gone, unaware that he had just seen his family for the last time.

HIS DISAPPEARANCE AND THE SEARCH

Soon after, Mary and the kids came upon the first stop area, expecting to find Bono waiting for them there, but he was nowhere to be found. They began searching, more out of curiosity than alarm.

At first, Mary was not skeptical. She presumed that they had taken a different route than Bono, or he had just zoomed by so fast he wouldn’t stop at the rest area.

Cher and Sonny Bono at the 45th Annual Academy Awards on March 27, 1973 | Photo: Getty Images

Cher and Sonny Bono at the 45th Annual Academy Awards on March 27, 1973 | Photo: Getty Images

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Thirty minutes into the search, the panic was beginning to set in. They went to the next rest stop, then down to the bottom. The day was beginning to wear off, but there was still no sign of Bono.

Mary confided with the ski patrol, but no one had reported an accident. So they continued searching — up and down the hill, to the bottom of the mountain, then back up — still, nothing. Mary recalls of the fateful afternoon:

“The kids were so cold. They were crying. I said, ‘OK. He had to have skied to the very bottom. That’s what happened. He’ll be there waiting for us.’”

Singer Sonny Bono on June 12, 1977 arrives at the Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images

Singer Sonny Bono on June 12, 1977 arrives at the Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images

By 4:30 in the afternoon, they still hadn’t found him. The ski patrol officially declared him missing. A few minutes after 6 p.m, the president of the resort, together with the area sheriff, told Mary that they had found a body.

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Bono had been involved in a collision. He had run into a tree, and without a helmet, it had been fatal. As she would come to learn later, even if he had had on a helmet, the force was too much and would have left him brain-dead.

Bono never wore helmets when skiing, but six days earlier, Michael Kennedy, a nephew to John F. Kennedy, had died during a skiing accident.

The accident led to Bono discussing helmets with his wife, and he had promised to get one before they went on the next skiing trip.

NO WITNESSES

Pierini, the sheriff, confirmed that the accident had occurred at 2 p.m, but at the time, Mary had not reported him missing. He adds that it would have been difficult to spot him unless one was skiing or looking for him in that specific area.

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He had been “tree skiing,” a common activity among advanced skiers, as Bono was. There had been no witnesses to the accident, and his death was recorded as having been caused by head injuries resulting from blunt force trauma.

FBI AGENT DISAGREES WITH AUTOPSY RESULTS

Despite the autopsy results showing that the collision with the tree had been the cause of death, Ted Gunderson, a former FBI agent, refuted the claims. He believed that Bono had been assassinated.

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Gunderson claimed that Bono — a member of the US House of Representatives — was about to expose international weapons and drug rings, and top US officials had hired hitmen to move in on him.

Cher and Sonny Bono pose for a promotional photo for "The Sonny and Cher Show" circa 1968-1970. | Source: Getty Images

Cher and Sonny Bono pose for a promotional photo for "The Sonny and Cher Show" circa 1968-1970. | Source: Getty Images

Top forensic experts reportedly backed up his claims, and Gunderson spoke to America’s Globe regarding the autopsy results, as reported by NME:

“It’s nonsense for anyone to now try to suggest that Bono died after crashing into a tree.”

CHER ON SPEAKING TO BONO

Years after his demise, Cher opened up about the life she shared with her former husband in a reality TV program aired on CBS, named “Sonny and Me: Cher Remembers.”

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Sonny Bono and Cher at the London Airport in 1967. | Photo: Getty Images

Sonny Bono and Cher at the London Airport in 1967. | Photo: Getty Images

The show, she said, was her way of telling the extraordinary story of Bono because, without him, she would not have been where she was. She also disclosed that she often communicated with Bono through the Spiritual Medium James Van Praagh.

Today, Bono is remembered for his musical genius and his involvement in Congress as a conservative politician. His three children from his marriages to Cher and Mary succeeded him.

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