Judith Barsi

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Judith Barsi
Barsi Judith.jpg
Born Judith Eva Barsi
(1978-06-06)June 6, 1978
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Died July 25, 1988(1988-07-25) (aged 10)
Canoga Park, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Resting place
Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills
Occupation Actress
Years active 1984–1988

Judith Eva Barsi (June 6, 1978 – July 25, 1988) was an American child actress. She began her career in television, making appearances in commercials and television shows, and later appeared in the films Jaws: The Revenge, The Land Before Time, and All Dogs Go to Heaven, supplying the voice for animated characters in the latter two. In 1988, after years of physical and mental abuse, her father, József, shot and killed Judith and her mother, Maria, before shooting himself in a double murder–suicide.

Family history[edit]

Judith's father, József, fled Communist Hungary after the 1956 Soviet occupation. He eventually relocated to New York in 1964, and then to California,[1] where he met Maria Virovacz.[2] Maria, herself a Hungarian immigrant escaping the Soviet occupation, was born in rural southern Hungary,[2] and suffered psychological and physical abuse from her father. József and Maria married, and Judith's birth quickly followed in Los Angeles, California, where Judith was raised.[3]


Maria began grooming her daughter to become an actress,[2] and at the age of five, Judith was discovered at a skating rink.[2] Judith went on to appear in more than 70 commercials and guest roles on television.[4] As well as her career in television, Judith appeared in several films including Jaws: The Revenge and provided the voice for the character of Ducky in The Land Before Time.

By the time she entered fourth grade, Judith was earning an estimated $100,000 a year, which helped her family buy a three-bedroom house in West Hills, Los Angeles.[5] As she was short for her age (she stood 3 ft 8 in (1.12 m) at age 10),[2] Judith began receiving hormone injections at UCLA to encourage her growth. Her petiteness led casting directors to cast her as children that were younger than her actual age. Her agent was quoted in The Los Angeles Times as saying that when Judith was ten, "she was still playing 7, 8".[2]

Abuse and murder[edit]

As Judith's career success increased, József became increasingly abusive, jealous and paranoid, and would routinely threaten to kill himself, his wife, and daughter. His alcoholism worsened, and resulted in three separate arrests for drunk driving.[2] In December 1986, Maria reported his threats and physical violence toward her to the police. After police found no physical signs of abuse, Maria eventually decided not to press charges against József.[2]

After the incident, József reportedly stopped drinking, but continued to threaten his wife and daughter, which included threats of cutting their throats as well as burning down the house. He reportedly hid a telegram informing Maria that a relative in Hungary had died, in an attempt to prevent her and Judith from leaving America.[6] Physical violence continued, with Judith telling a friend about her father throwing pots and pans at her, resulting in a nosebleed.[7] Due to her father's abuse, Judith began putting on weight[6] and exhibited disturbing behavior, which included plucking out all her eyelashes and pulling out her cat's whiskers.[2] After breaking down in front of her agent during a singing audition for All Dogs Go to Heaven, Judith was taken by Maria to a child psychologist, who identified severe physical and emotional abuse and reported her findings to Child Protective Services.[2]

The investigation was dropped after Maria assured the case worker that she intended to begin divorce proceedings against József and that she and Judith were going to move into a Panorama City apartment she had recently rented as a daytime haven from József.[8] Friends urged Maria to follow through with the plan, but she resisted, reportedly because she did not want to lose the family home and belongings.[2]

Judith's grave marker decorated with roses in 2004.

Judith was last seen riding her bike on the morning of July 25, 1988.[3] That evening, József shot Judith in the head while she was sleeping in her room, then shot Maria.[5] József spent the next two days wandering around the house,[3] and said during a phone call with Judith's agent on the next night that he intended to move out for good, and just needed time to "say goodbye to my little girl."[2] He then poured gasoline on the bodies and set them on fire.[9] After incinerating the bodies, József went into the garage and shot himself in the head with a .32 caliber pistol.[10][11] On August 9, 1988, Judith and her mother were interred at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles.[12]


Judith's final film, All Dogs Go to Heaven, in which she voices the orphaned Anne-Marie, was released in 1989.[13] Don Bluth, the director of The Land Before Time, described her as "absolutely astonishing. She understood verbal direction, even for the most sophisticated situations,"[14] and he had intended to use her extensively in his future productions.[15]


Year Title Role Notes
1984 Fatal Vision Kimberly (age 3) Miniseries
1984 Jessie Katie Episode: "Valerie's Turn"
1985 Kids Don't Tell Jennifer Ryan Television movie
1985 Do You Remember Love Kathleen Television movie
1985 The New Twilight Zone Gertie Segment: "A Little Peace and Quiet"
1985 There Were Times, Dear Molly Reed Television movie
1985 The Fall Guy Little Girl Episode: "Escape Claus"
1986 Remington Steele Laurie Beth Piper Episode: "Suburban Steele"
1986 Punky Brewster Anna 2 episodes
1986 Trapper John, M.D. Lindsay Christmas Episode: "Life, Death and Dr. Christmas"
1986 Cheers Child #1 Episode: "Relief Bartender"
1986 Cagney & Lacey Shauna Bard Episode: "Disenfranchised"
1986 The New Gidget Little Girl Episode: "It's Only Rock & Roll"
1986 Eye of the Tiger Jennifer Matthews
1986 The Love Boat Christmas angel Episode: "The Christmas Cruise: Part 2"
1987 Destination America Amy Television movie
1987 Slam Dance Bean
1987 Jaws: The Revenge Thea Brody
1987 The Tracey Ullman Show Little Girl Episode #2.3
1988 The Tracey Ullman Show Karen Episode #2.17
1988 St. Elsewhere Debbie Oppenheimer Episode: "The Abby Singer Show"
1988 Growing Pains Young Carol Episodes "Graduation Day"
1988 ABC Afterschool Special Billie Foster Episode: "A Family Again"; Released posthumously
1988 The Land Before Time Ducky Voice; Released posthumously
1989 All Dogs Go to Heaven Anne-Marie Voice; Released posthumously
1992 Growing Pains Young Carol Episode: "The Last Picture Show, part 2" (archive footage)


  1. ^ Barsi, Ági (1999), What will you do?, A Better Life, ISBN 0967169399
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Johnson, John; Fuentes, Gabe (1988-08-07). "A Script of Fear: Repeated Threats by Father of Child Actress Carried to Tragic End". latimes.com. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c DEATH OF A FAMILY - Judith Barsi's story. Arnold Shapiro Productions. February 15, 1989. 
  4. ^ "Local News in Brief: Child-Abuse Files Ordered Opened". latimes.com. 1988-08-23. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  5. ^ a b Donnelley, Paul (2005-11-01). Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries (3 ed.). Omnibus Press. p. 122. ISBN 1-84449-430-6. 
  6. ^ a b "A Lesson Learned From Family Tragedy". The Los Angeles Times. 1988-09-18. Retrieved 9 June 2012. 
  7. ^ "Girl who appeared on 'Growing Pains' told show's star: My dad says he's going to kill me!". The National Enquirer. 1988-09-16. 
  8. ^ "Inquiry in Barsi Case Dropped Too Soon, Panel Says". The Los Angeles Times. 1988-09-07. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  9. ^ "Local News in Brief: Bodies Identified as Child Actress, Mother". latimes.com. 1988-07-29. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  10. ^ Fuentes, Gabe (July 28, 1988). "Three Dead in Apparent Murder-Suicide". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 10, 2012. 
  11. ^ "Child Actress Is Slain, Apparently by Father". The New York Times. 1988-07-30. Retrieved 22 November 2009. 
  12. ^ C. Phillips, Deidre (1988-08-10). "Child actress Barsi, mother buried". Los Angeles Daily News. 
  13. ^ Beck, Jerry (2005). The Animated Movie Guide. Chicago Review Press. pp. 13–14. ISBN 1-55652-591-5. 
  14. ^ "Don Bluth - .... on Movies, Games and Visions". Retrieved 9 July 2013. 
  15. ^ Cawley, John. "Don Bluth All Dogs Go To Heaven". Retrieved 9 July 2013. 

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