Judith Barsi

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Judith Barsi
Barsi on an episode of Punky Brewster, 1986
Judith Eva Barsi

(1978-06-06)June 6, 1978
DiedJuly 25, 1988(1988-07-25) (aged 10)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of deathHomicide by gunshot
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills, California, U.S.
Years active1984–1988

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 series, as well as the 1987 film Jaws: The Revenge. She also provided the voices of Ducky in The Land Before Time and Anne-Marie in All Dogs Go to Heaven. She and her mother, Maria, were killed in July 1988 in a double murder–suicide committed in their home by her father, József Barsi.[1]

Early life

Barsi was born in Los Angeles County, California, on June 6, 1978, the daughter of József Istvan Barsi and Maria Barsi (née Virovacz), both immigrants to the U.S. who fled the Hungarian People's Republic following the 1956 uprising.[1][2] The two immigrated at different times and met at a restaurant in California, where Maria worked as a waitress. Both had been previously married.[1]


Maria Barsi began preparing her daughter to become an actress when Judith was five.[1] Barsi's first role was in Fatal Vision, playing Kimberley MacDonald. She went on to appear in more than seventy commercials and guest roles on television.[3] As well as her career in television, she appeared in several films, including Jaws: The Revenge, and provided the voices of Ducky in The Land Before Time, and Anne-Marie in All Dogs Go to Heaven.

By the time she started fourth grade, Barsi was earning an estimated $100,000 per year (equivalent to $247,000 in 2022), which helped her family buy a three-bedroom house in West Hills, Los Angeles.[4] As she was short for her age—she stood 3 ft 8 in (112 cm) at age 10[1]—she 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 Ruth Hansen was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying that when she was ten, "she was still playing 7, 8."[1]

Abuse and death

As Barsi's career success increased, her father József, an alcoholic, became increasingly angry and would routinely threaten to kill himself, his wife and daughter. His drinking led to three arrests for drunk driving.[1] In December 1986, Maria reported his threats and physical violence toward her to the police. After the police found no physical signs of abuse, she decided not to press charges against him.[1]

After the incident with the police, József reportedly stopped drinking, but continued to threaten Maria and Judith. His various threats included cutting their throats as well as burning down the house. He also reportedly hid a telegram informing Maria that a relative in Hungary had died, in an attempt to prevent her from leaving the United States with Judith.[5] The physical violence continued, with Barsi telling a friend that her father threw pots and pans at her, resulting in a nosebleed.[6] As a result of her abuse, Barsi began gaining weight[5] and developed compulsive behaviors, such as plucking out her eyelashes, and pulling out her cat's whiskers (see trichotillomania).[1] In May 1988, after breaking down in front of her agent, Ruth Hansen, Barsi was taken by Maria to a child psychologist, who identified severe physical and emotional abuse and reported her findings to child protective services.[1]

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 him.[7] Maria's friends urged her to follow through with the plan, but she hesitated due to her fear of losing the family home and belongings.[8]

On July 28, 1988, the Los Angeles Times reported that three people were found dead in an apparent murder–suicide and that the bodies were believed to be those of Barsi, her mother Maria, and her father József.[9] The article quoted Police Lt. Warren Knowles as saying a flammable liquid, likely gasoline, had been poured on the bodies of Maria and Judith by József. József's body was found in the garage, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Neighbor Eunice Daly stated she heard a gunshot around 8:30 a.m. on July 27, prompting her to call the police.[10] Barsi and her mother were buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park, in adjoining plots.[11]

Barsi's gravestone, paid for by fan subscription in 2004. It contains her Land Before Time catchphrase ("Yep! Yep! Yep!") and an allusion to the Martina McBride song "Concrete Angel."[12]


Barsi's final film, All Dogs Go to Heaven, in which she provided the speaking voice of Anne-Marie, was released posthumously in November 1989.[13] In an interview, Don Bluth, the director of both The Land Before Time and All Dogs Go To Heaven, praised her as being "absolutely astonishing. She understood verbal direction, even for the most sophisticated situations".[14] Bluth stated he intended to feature her extensively in his future productions.[15] The closing credits song "Love Survives" was dedicated in her memory.


Year Title Role Notes
1984 Fatal Vision Kimberly MacDonald (age three) Miniseries
Jessie Katie Episode: "Valerie's Turn"
1985 Kids Don't Tell Jennifer Ryan Television movie
Do You Remember Love Kathleen Television movie
Knots Landing Bratty Girl Episode: "#14 with a Bullet"
The Twilight Zone Bertie Segment: "A Little Peace and Quiet"
There Were Times, Dear Molly Reed Television movie
The Fall Guy Little Girl Episode: "Escape Claus"
1986 Remington Steele Laurie Beth Piper Episode: "Suburban Steele"
Punky Brewster Anna 2 episodes
Trapper John, M.D. Lindsay Christmas Episode: "Life, Death and Dr. Christmas"
Cheers Child #1 Episode: "Relief Bartender"
Cagney & Lacey Shauna Bard Episode: "Disenfranchised"
The New Gidget Little Girl Episode: "It's Only Rock & Roll"
Eye of the Tiger Jennifer Matthews
The Love Boat Christmas Angel Episode: "The Christmas Cruise: Part 2"
1987 Destination America Amy Television movie
Slam Dance Bean
Jaws: The Revenge Thea Brody
1987–1988 The Tracey Ullman Show Little Girl / Karen 2 episodes
1988 St. Elsewhere Debbie Oppenheimer Episode: "The Abby Singer Show"
Growing Pains Young Carol Episodes: "Graduation Day"
"The Last Picture Show: Part 2" (archive footage from "Graduation Day")
ABC Afterschool Special Billie Foster Episode: "A Family Again"; Released posthumously
The Land Before Time Ducky (voice) Released posthumously
1989 All Dogs Go to Heaven Anne-Marie (voice)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Johnson, John; Fuentes, Gabe (August 7, 1988). "A Script of Fear: Repeated Threats by Father of Child Actress Carried to Tragic End". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California. Retrieved September 26, 2011.
  2. ^ Barsi, Ági (1999). What Will You Do?. A Better Life. ISBN 0967169399.
  3. ^ "Local News in Brief: Child-Abuse Files Ordered Opened". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California. August 23, 1988. Retrieved September 26, 2011.
  4. ^ Donnelley, Paul (2005). Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries (3rd ed.). London, England: Omnibus Press. p. 122. ISBN 1-84449-430-6.
  5. ^ a b Barber, Sherry (September 18, 1988). "A Lesson Learned From Family Tragedy". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 9, 2012.
  6. ^ "Girl who appeared on 'Growing Pains' told show's star: My dad says he's going to kill me!". The National Enquirer. New York City: American Media, Inc. September 16, 1988.
  7. ^ Fuentes, Gabe (September 7, 1988). "Inquiry in Barsi Case Dropped Too Soon, Panel Says". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California. Retrieved September 26, 2011.
  8. ^ John, Johnson (August 17, 1988). "Barsi Probe: Judge Asked to Reveal Files on Slain Child". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  9. ^ "Local News in Brief: Bodies Identified as Child Actress, Mother". Los Angeles Times. July 29, 1988. Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  10. ^ Ap (July 30, 1988). "Child Actress Is Slain, Apparently by Father". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 9, 2019.
  11. ^ Phillips, Deidre C. (August 10, 1988). "Child actress Barsi, mother buried". Los Angeles Daily News. Los Angeles, California: Southern California News Group.
  12. ^ "Retro Junk". www.retrojunk.com.
  13. ^ Beck, Jerry (2005). The Animated Movie Guide. Chicago, Illinois: Chicago Review Press. pp. 13–14. ISBN 1-55652-591-5.
  14. ^ "Don Bluth – .... on Movies, Games and Visions". Archived from the original on January 16, 2014. Retrieved July 9, 2013.
  15. ^ Cawley, John. "Don Bluth All Dogs Go To Heaven". Archived from the original on January 3, 2014. Retrieved July 9, 2013.

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