Press photo of Schaeffer for My Sister Sam (Reversed Image)
Rebecca Lucile Schaeffer
November 6, 1967
|Died||July 18, 1989 (aged 21)|
|Cause of death||Gunshot wounds (homicide)|
|Resting place||Ahavai Sholom Cemetery, Portland, Oregon|
|Education||Lincoln High School|
Professional Children's School
Rebecca Lucile Schaeffer (November 6, 1967 – July 18, 1989) was an American model and actress. She began her career as a teen model before moving on to acting. In 1986, she landed the role of Patricia "Patti" Russell in the CBS comedy My Sister Sam. The series was canceled in 1988, and Schaeffer appeared in several films, including the black comedy Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills. At the age of 21, Schaeffer was murdered by a fan who had been stalking her.
Early life and career
Schaeffer was born to a Jewish family in Eugene, Oregon, the only child of Danna (née Wilner), a writer and instructor at Portland Community College, and Dr. Benson Schaeffer, a child psychologist. She was raised in the Jewish religion in Portland, where she attended Lincoln High School. She initially had aspirations to become a rabbi, but she began modeling during her junior year in high school. She appeared in department store catalogs and television commercials, and as an extra in a television film. In August 1984, her parents allowed her to move to New York City by herself to pursue a modeling career. While working in New York, she attended Professional Children's School. She also had a short-term role on the daytime soap opera Guiding Light.
In late 1984, Schaeffer landed the role of Annie Barnes on ABC's One Life to Live for a stint that lasted six months. During this time, she attempted to further her modeling prospects. At 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m), she was considered too short for high fashion modeling and struggled to find work. In 1985, she moved to Japan in hopes of finding more modeling jobs, but still encountered difficulty due to her height and weight. She returned to New York City and decided to focus on an acting career.
In 1986, Schaeffer won a small role in Woody Allen's comedy Radio Days, but her performance was ultimately edited from the film; only a brief scene featuring her character remains in the film. She continued modeling and also worked as a waitress. She appeared on the cover of Seventeen magazine, which caught the attention of television producers who were casting for the comedy My Sister Sam starring Pam Dawber. Schaeffer won the role of Patricia "Patti" Russell, a teenager who moves from Oregon to San Francisco to live with her 29 year-old sister Samantha ("Sam") after the death of their parents. The series was initially a hit, ranking in the top 25, but it was canceled halfway through its second season in April 1988 due to falling ratings. After My Sister Sam, Schaeffer had supporting roles in Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills, The End of Innocence, and the television film Out of Time. She also served as a spokesman for the children's charity Thursday's Child.
Robert John Bardo shot and killed Schaeffer on Tuesday, July 18, 1989 at her West Hollywood residence. He was a fan who had been stalking her for three years. He had previously been obsessed with child peace activist Samantha Smith, but she died in a plane crash in 1985. He then wrote numerous letters to Schaeffer, one of which she answered. In 1987, he traveled to Los Angeles hoping to meet with Schaeffer on the set of My Sister Sam, but Warner Bros. security turned him away. He returned a month later armed with a knife, but security guards again prevented him from gaining access. He returned to Tucson and lost focus on Schaeffer for a while, as his obsession shifted toward pop singers Debbie Gibson, Madonna, and Tiffany Darwish.
Bardo watched Schaeffer in the black comedy Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills in 1989, in which she appeared in bed with a male actor. He became enraged by the scene, apparently out of jealousy, and decided that Schaeffer should be punished for becoming "another Hollywood whore". Arthur Richard Jackson had stalked and stabbed actress Theresa Saldana in 1982, and Bardo learned that Jackson had used a private investigator to obtain Saldana's address. Bardo then paid a detective agency in Tucson $250 to find Schaeffer's home address in California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) records. His brother helped him get a Ruger GP100 .357 handgun because he was only 19 years old.
Bardo traveled to Los Angeles a third time and roamed the neighborhood where Schaeffer lived, asking people if she actually lived there. Once he was certain that the address was correct, he rang the doorbell. Schaeffer was preparing for an audition for The Godfather Part III and was expecting a script to be delivered, so she answered the door. Bardo showed her a letter and autograph that she had previously sent him; after a short conversation, she asked him not to come to her home again. He went to a diner nearby and had breakfast, then returned to her apartment an hour later. She answered the door with "a cold look on her face", Bardo later said. He pulled out the gun from a brown paper bag and shot her in the chest at point-blank range in the doorway of her apartment building. Schaeffer screamed and collapsed in her doorway as Bardo fled. A neighbor phoned paramedics, who arrived to transport her to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. She was pronounced dead 30 minutes after her arrival.
Tucson Police Chief Peter Ronstadt arrested Bardo the next day after motorists reported a man running through traffic on Interstate 10. He immediately confessed to the murder. Marcia Clark, better known for her role as lead prosecutor in the O. J. Simpson murder case, prosecuted the case against him. Bardo was convicted of capital murder in a bench trial and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Californian laws dramatically changed regarding the release of personal information through the DMV. The Driver's Privacy Protection Act was enacted in 1994, which prevents the DMV from releasing private addresses. Schaeffer's death also helped prompt the 1990 passage of America's first anti-stalking laws.
At the time of her death, Schaeffer was dating director Brad Silberling. Her death influenced his film Moonlight Mile (2002) about a man's grief after his fiancée is murdered. Shortly after Schaeffer's death, Pam Dawber and her My Sister Sam co-stars Joel Brooks, David Naughton, and Jenny O'Hara filmed a public service announcement for the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence in her honor.
|1985||One Life to Live||Annie Barnes||Unknown episodes|
|1986||Amazing Stories||Miss Crowningshield||Episode: "Miscalculation"|||
|1986–1988||My Sister Sam||Patti Russell||44 episodes|
|1987||Radio Days||Communist's Daughter|
|1988||Out of Time||Pam Wallace||Television movie|||
|1989||Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills||Zandra|||
|1990||The End of Innocence||Stephanie (18–25 years old)||Released posthumously|||
|1990||Voyage of Terror: The Achille Lauro Affair||Cheryl||Television movie; released posthumously|||
- Who's who in Frontier Science and Technology, Volume 1. Marquis Who's Who. 1984. p. 639.
- Braun, Stephen; Jones, Charrise (July 24, 1989). "Murder suspect seems determined as victim". Eugene Register-Guard. p. 5A. Retrieved June 10, 2013.
- Axthelm, Pete (July 31, 1989). "An Innocent Life, a Heartbreaking Death". People. Retrieved April 20, 2013.
- Kim, Jae-Ha. "Patient actress skips soap for bubbly `Sister Sam' role." Chicago Sun-Times, FIVE STAR SPORTS FINAL ed., sec. SECTION 2 FEATURES, 29 Dec. 1986, p. 40. NewsBank, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/0EB36D3D96FE18FE. Accessed 19 Apr. 2019.
- Peterson, Bettelou. "ACTRESS SAYS CO-STAR IS REALLY LIKE A SISTER." Wichita Eagle, The (KS), CITY EDITION ed., sec. LIFESTYLE, 2 Aug. 1987, p. 3. NewsBank, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/0EADB31992137DDB. Accessed 19 Apr. 2019.
- - of the Oregonian Staff, DAVID AUSTIN. "ACTRESS FROM PORTLAND KILLED IN LA." Oregonian, The (Portland, OR), Fourth ed., sec. Local Stories, 19 July 1989, p. A01. NewsBank, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/0EB085D5E4CA1E7A. Accessed 19 Apr. 2019.
- Daily News Staff Writer, RANDYE HODER. "ACTRESS SHOT TO DEATH BY GUNMAN AT DOOR - VICTIM WAS FEATURED IN 'MY SISTER SAM'." Daily News of Los Angeles (CA), Valley ed., sec. News, 19 July 1989, p. N4. NewsBank, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/0EF566A6132ABE44. Accessed 19 Apr. 2019.
- "Case 97: Rebecca Schaeffer - Casefile: True Crime Podcast". Casefile: True Crime Podcast. October 20, 2018. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
- Peterson, Bettelou (July 5, 1987). "Rebecca Schaeffer says co-star really like big sister". The Day. p. B6. Retrieved June 10, 2013.
- Pfefferman, Naomi (September 5, 2002). "Illuminating 'Moonlight Mile'". jewishjournal.com. Retrieved November 9, 2008.
- "Thursday's Child". thursdayschild.org. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
- Meloy 2001, p. 27.
- Snow 1998, pp. 71–72.
- Snow 1998, p. 73.
- Snow 1998, pp. 73, 74.
- "Stalker!". E! Online. Archived from the original on April 27, 2006. Retrieved July 28, 2007. Cache from the Internet Archive.
- "Testimony of Robert Douglas, CEO of Privacy Today, before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee". Privacy Today. April 13, 2005. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007. Retrieved July 28, 2007.
- Moffatt 2000, p. 95.
- Snow 1998, p. 74.
- Dwyer & Fiorillo 2006, p. 83.
- Conner 2002, p. 267.
- Carol E. Jordan (2014). Violence Against Women in Kentucky: A History of U.S. and State Legislative Reform. University of Kentucky Press. p. 55. ISBN 9780813144931.
- "Death on Main Street". The Age. March 8, 2003.
- "The Stalking Death that Changed the Law: Rebecca Schaeffer Never Lived to Realize Her Success". frankseelreviews.com. Retrieved July 28, 2007.
- Johnson, Beth (July 14, 1995). "A Fan's Fatal Obsession". ew.com. Retrieved November 9, 2008.
- Dwyer & Fiorillo 2006, p. 92.
- Klosek 2000, pp. 140–141.
- "Actress' Murder Led to Tougher Anti-Stalking Laws". The Hollywood Reporter. The Associated Press. July 14, 2014. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
- Rivas, Anthony (April 12, 2019). "Co-star of young actress killed says she was 'devastated' by her murder". ABC News. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
- Green, Tom (August 16, 1989). "'Sister Sam' cast honors slain co-star". USA Today. p. 1D.
- Phillips, Mark; Garcia, Frank (May 12, 2014). Science Fiction Television Series: Episode Guides, Histories, and Casts and Credits for 62 Prime-Time Shows, 1959 through 1989. McFarland. p. 51. ISBN 9781476610306. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
- McGovern, Joe (June 12, 2017). "When Devotion Turns Deadly". Who – via PressReader.
- The End of Innocence at AllMovie
- Conner, Floyd (2002). Hollywood's Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Lucky Breaks, Prima Donnas, Box Office Bombs, and Other Oddities. Brassey's. ISBN 1-57488-480-8.
- Dwyer, Kevin; Fiorillo, June (2006). True Stories of Law & Order: The Real Crimes Behind the Best Episodes of the Hit TV Show. Berkley Books. ISBN 0-425-21190-8.
- Klosek, Jacqueline (2000). Data Privacy in the Information Age. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-12-490561-7.
- Meloy, J. Reid (2001). The Psychology of Stalking: Clinical and Forensic Perspectives. Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-490561-7.
- Moffatt, Gregory K. (2000). Blind-Sided: Homicide Where it is Least Expected. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-275-96929-0.
- Snow, Robert L. (1998). Stopping a Stalker: A Cop's Guide to Making the System Work for You. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-45785-7.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rebecca Schaeffer.|