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These Were the Most Infamous Murders to Rock Hollywood

Allie Gemmill is an avid writer, cinephile, Ravenclaw, and pizza enthusiast. She regularly writes on film and television with a special focus on women’s involvement & influence in Hollywood. Additionally, she has bylines at Bustle, Keyfr...

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Their deaths shocked us all

Image: Getty Images/Design: Ashley Britton/SheKnows
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Their deaths shocked us all

America's fascination with true crime is a long-lingering pastime, and one we continue to indulge in to this day. It's a morbid hobby, to be sure, but it's one that is always rife with new stories and endless insight into the darkest corners of the human mind. With Murder on the Orient Express premiering on Nov. 10, it's no wonder we may suddenly have murder on the brain once again, and this time around, our thoughts might drift to various and sundry murders that have hit Hollywood over the years.

Celebrities may live rarefied lives, but that doesn't mean they cannot be touched by tragedy. Murder has occurred in Hollywood more than we may like to acknowledge, and many beloved celebrities we know have met an untimely end in this manner. Celebrities either wrapped up in murderous events or victims themselves include Sharon Tate, O.J. Simpson, Lana Turner and Selena Quintanilla-Pérez — but they are not the only ones. 

Keep clicking to see which other infamous murders shook Hollywood to its core.

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Sharon Tate

Archive Photos/Getty Images
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Sharon Tate

Actor Sharon Tate is perhaps the most famous victim of cult leader Charles Manson. While Manson himself did not directly kill Tate, his teachings and views were adapted by his followers and led them to kill her, leaving him forever connected to her. At the time of her murder, Tate was best known for her role in Valley of the Dolls, although she found success modeling as well as acting in a number of European art-house films.

At the time of her murder, Tate was eight-and-a-half months pregnant with her son with husband and director, Roman Polanski. Polanski was away filming at the time. On Aug. 9, 1969, four of Manson's followers invaded Tate's home and proceeded to shoot her and a few of her friends before exiting the premises.

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Elizabeth Short, aka 'The Black Dahlia'

Archive Photos/Getty Images
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Elizabeth Short, aka 'The Black Dahlia'

Elizabeth Short's grisly murder is one of America's most infamous cold cases. Her killer has never been found, and only a few options for the true identity of her killer remain. A young woman hoping to find fame in Hollywood in the immediate years after World War II, Short quickly became involved in the seedier side of Hollywood in order to make a living. It is her life before her murder that has been used as a means to find a killer, hence why it's of note.

On the morning of Jan. 15, 1947, Short's body was discovered in a vacant lot in Leimert Park, LA. Her body was so badly mangled and unrecognizable that the mother who found her thought she was a discarded store mannequin at first. Short's body had been drained of all its blood, marked with stabs and cuts and her mouth cut open from ear to ear. She had also been disemboweled.

Short’s murder was nicknamed “The Black Dahlia Murder” by the press (a habit of newspapers at the time was to nickname high-profile or criminal stories). It’s thought the name comes in part from the color of Short’s hair in part from the popular noir film released the previous year, The Blue Dahlia.

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Nicole Brown

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Nicole Brown

The murder of Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman has fascinated the American people and pop culture since it happened in 1994. The subject of numerous books, documentaries and recently, the Ryan Murphy-helmed dramatization American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson, the details of Brown's murder, which involve her and Goldman being discovered stabbed to death in her home, will be familiar to many.

In the 23 years since it happened, authorities have been unable to find a credible suspect that is not Brown's former husband, O.J. Simpson. Simpson — a star athlete and beloved actor — was married to Brown for seven years before they divorced in 1992. There were allegations of domestic abuse, which hinted at a possible stepping stone to murder in the case against Simpson, who was at the center of the murder investigation and trial. Notable moments from the Simpson investigation and trial include the white Bronco chase down an LA highway and the fitting of the glove suspected to be worn by Brown and Goldman's killer, which didn't fit Simpson's rather large hand during the trial. Simpson was found not guilty of murder in the 1995 criminal trial, though he was later found liable for their deaths in a civil suit brought by Brown's and Goldman's families.

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Selena Quintanilla-Pérez

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Selena Quintanilla-Pérez

Known professionally as just Selena, Selena Quintanilla-Pérez's life and career were cut tragically short by her murder. The Mexican-American singer and actor enjoyed a successful career singing in both Spanish and English, with hits including "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom" and "Fotos y Recuerdos." Dubbed the Queen of Tejano, Selena's achievements including a Grammy, hit albums and a burgeoning career in fashion design.

In March 1995, Selena was shot in the back and killed at age 23 by Yolanda Saldívar. Saldívar, an older woman, was a devoted fan and friend of Selena's, managing the singer's fan club and acting much like an assistant to Selena until the singer's family discovered Saldívar was stealing from the fan club and fired her. In the wake of the singer's murder, then-governor George W. Bush declared her birthday, April 16, Selena Day in the state of Texas.

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Biggie Smalls & Tupac Shakur

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Biggie Smalls & Tupac Shakur

The murders of insanely successful rappers Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur shook Hollywood to its core. Long considered rivals within hip-hop, both men rose to fame almost immediately in their careers. They were two of hip-hop's biggest stars, and yet they were killed in similarly shocking and brutal ways mere months apart. Their deaths struck a blow to the industry, and worse, their murders remain unsolved to this day.

On March 9, 1997, Smalls was shot by a still-unknown assailant in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles. He was 24 years old. Months before Smalls' death, Shakur was shot and killed under similar circumstances. On the night of March 7, 1996, Shakur was headed to a Las Vegas club after attending the Bruce Seldon vs. Mike Tyson boxing match. While stopped at an intersection, Shakur's car was approached by an unmarked Cadillac from which shots were fired, with four bullets striking and killing Shakur.

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Lana Turner's boyfriend, Johnny Stompanato

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Lana Turner's boyfriend, Johnny Stompanato

Lana Turner was one of the great bombshells and truly talented actors of the 1950s and 1960s. Considered a great beauty, Turner made her name as a pinup model and later, the star of films like Peyton Place, Imitation of Life and The Postman Always Rings Twice.

In 1957, Turner met low-level mobster Johnny Stompanato. The pair embarked on a whirlwind affair, and soon, Stompanato was deeply enmeshed in Turner's life and career. When Turner found out about Stompanato's criminal connections, she broke off the relationship, much to his chagrin. He appeared on the set of the film, Another Time, Another Place, and nearly shot Turner on set (costar Sean Connery intervened and wrestled the gun from Stompanato). When Turner returned to her home in LA, Stompanato showed up yet again. The two began arguing in Turner's bedroom, and Turner's teen daughter, Cheryl, feared for her mother's safety. Grabbing a kitchen knife, Cheryl stabbed and killed Stompanato. The murder was ruled a justifiable homicide.

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John Lennon

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John Lennon

The legacy of John Lennon needs no introduction; it would be hard to do it justice in all honesty. One-fourth of The Beatles, Lennon's career spanned close to three decades, and at that time, he became known as a musician, artist, peaceful protester, eccentric, father and husband.

Lennon was shot and killed on the evening on Dec. 8, 1980, in New York City by Mark David Chapman. Chapman was found at the scene of the crime reading the book Catcher in the Rye, which he claimed acted as his statement in regard to why he shot Lennon. A fan of Lennon's whose obsession drove him to do the unspeakable, Lennon actually signed a copy of his record Double Fantasy for Chapman hours before he was shot.

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Marvin Gaye

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Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye's voice is as legendary as the man himself. A prominent figure in the Motown and soul music scenes of the mid-'60s through the mid-'70s, Gaye's hits included "What's Going On?" "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" and "How Sweet It Is (to Be Loved by You)."

Gaye's life was cut short by his own father. Gaye had returned home in 1983 to stay with his parents in an attempt to abstain from drug abuse (primarily cocaine). In 1984, Gaye's father, Marvin Sr., entered Gaye's bedroom and shot him in the heart, then at point-blank range in the shoulder. Marvin Sr.'s charges were reduced when it was learned he had a brain tumor at the time of the murder and that Gaye himself had cocaine in his system.

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Phil Hartman

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Phil Hartman

Comedian Phil Hartman was one of the biggest comedic actors working in the late '80s and '90s. Fans will recognize him from his work on Saturday Night Live, where he was a regular cast member from 1985 to 1996. He's also known for his work on NewsRadio, The Simpsons and the Arnold Schwarzenegger Christmas movie Jingle All the Way.

Sadly, Hartman's career and life were cut short by his wife of 10 years, Brynn Hartman. Brynn had struggled with drug and alcohol abuse for years, and on the evening on May 27, 1998, she and Hartman were fighting over her addictions. While Brynn had sought treatment, she seemed on the brink of relapse; Hartman threatened to leave her if she began using again. Then early in the morning of May 28, Brynn went into the bedroom where Hartman slept and shot him in the head and the side. She was reportedly under the influence of alcohol and cocaine when she murdered him.

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Sal Mineo

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Sal Mineo

Sal Mineo was a rising star in Hollywood in the 1950s. He was perhaps best known for his role as the sensitive teen Plato in Rebel Without a Cause, but he went on to star in hit films like Giant and Planet of the Apes.

After a period of career downturn in the 1960s, Mineo was getting back on his feet by 1976 and found steady work on the stage in San Francisco. He was walking home one evening from rehearsal in '76 when he was stabbed, seemingly without cause, by Lionel Ray Williams. It's said that Williams stabbed Mineo only once in the heart, leading to the actor's death at age 37.

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Ronni Chasen

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Ronni Chasen

High-powered Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen represented many a well-known celebrity, including actors, directors and composers. Clients included the likes of Michael Douglas, Danny Boyle and Hans Zimmer. Chasen was considered a power player, able to make deals happen and manage her clients in a fastidious manner.

In November 2010, Chasen was driving home from the premiere of client Cher's latest film, Burlesque. In the very early hours of the morning, while Chasen was at an intersection in the wealthy neighborhood of Beverly Hills, she was shot in an attempted robbery by convicted felon Harold Martin Smith. It's believed Chasen was the victim of a crime.

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