Robert John Bardo

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Robert John Bardo
Born (1970-01-02) January 2, 1970 (age 49)
Tucson, Arizona
Criminal statusIncarcerated at Avenal State Prison
Conviction(s)First degree murder
Criminal penaltyLife imprisonment without parole

Robert John Bardo (born January 2, 1970) is an American man serving life imprisonment without parole after being convicted in October 1991 for the murder of American actress and model Rebecca Schaeffer on July 18, 1989, whom he had stalked for three years.[1]

Early life[edit]

Bardo was the youngest of seven children. His mother was Korean and his father was a noncommissioned officer in the U.S. Air Force. The family moved frequently and eventually settled in Tucson, Arizona in 1983. Bardo reportedly had a troubled childhood. He was abused by one of his siblings and placed in foster care after he threatened to commit suicide.[2] Bardo's family had a history of mental illness, and he himself was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.[3] At the age of 15, he was institutionalized for a month to treat emotional problems. Bardo dropped out of Pueblo Magnet High School in the ninth grade and began working as a janitor at Jack in the Box.[4]

In the 18 months prior to Schaeffer's murder, Bardo had been arrested three times on charges that included domestic violence and disorderly conduct. Bardo's neighbors also said that he had exhibited unexplained strange and threatening behavior toward them.[5]


Prior to developing an obsession with Schaeffer, Bardo had stalked child peace activist Samantha Smith before her death in a 1985 plane crash.[6] After writing numerous letters to Schaeffer, Bardo attempted to gain access to the set of the CBS TV series My Sister Sam, on which Schaeffer played a starring role. Ultimately, he obtained her home address via a detective agency, which in turn tracked it via California Department of Motor Vehicles records. On July 18, 1989, Bardo confronted Schaeffer at her home, angry that she had appeared in a sex scene in the film Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills; in his eyes, she had "lost her innocence." He visited her at her apartment and told her he was a big fan.[1] After having been turned away by Schaeffer, Bardo stopped at a diner for breakfast, only to return to the apartment about an hour later, again ringing the doorbell. When Schaeffer opened the door, Bardo fired a bullet through her chest. Bardo was arrested in Tucson, Arizona, where he was observed walking aimlessly in traffic.[7]

The state prosecutor for the trial was Marcia Clark, who later became the lead prosecutor in the O. J. Simpson murder trial. Bardo was housed in a Sensitive Needs Unit (SNU) for inmates such as gang members, notorious prisoners and those convicted of sex crimes. During the trial, Bardo claimed the U2 song "Exit" was an influence in the murder, and the song was played in the courtroom as evidence (with Bardo lip-synching the lyrics).[8][9]

Bardo's attorneys conceded that he had murdered Schaeffer, but they argued that he was mentally ill. Psychiatrist Park Dietz, testifying for the defense, said that Bardo had schizophrenia and that it was his illness that led him to commit the murder. Bardo was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.[10]

Bardo carried a red paperback copy of The Catcher in the Rye when he murdered Schaeffer, which he tossed onto the roof of a building as he fled.[11] He insisted that it was coincidental and that he was not emulating Mark David Chapman, who had also carried a copy with him when he shot and killed John Lennon on December 8, 1980.


As a consequence of Bardo's actions and his methods of obtaining Schaeffer's address, the U.S. Congress passed the Driver's Privacy Protection Act, which prohibits state Departments of Motor Vehicles from disclosing the home addresses of state residents.[1][12]

The season 2 episode of Law and Order, "Star Struck", was partially based on this case.[13]

On July 27, 2007, Bardo was stabbed 11 times on his way to breakfast in the maximum-security unit at Mule Creek State Prison in Amador County, California. Two inmate-made weapons were found at the scene. He was treated at the UC Davis Medical Center and returned to prison, officials said. The suspect in the attack was another convict, serving 82 years to life for second-degree murder.[14]

As of 2019, Bardo is serving his life sentence at the Avenal State Prison in Avenal, California.[15]


  1. ^ a b c Ramsland, Katherine. "Stalkers: The Psychological Terrorist". Crime Library. Retrieved 2009-09-01.
  2. ^ Mariotte, Jeff (2010). Criminal Minds: Sociopaths, Serial Killers, and Other Deviants (1 ed.). Wiley. p. 222. ISBN 0-470-63625-4.
  3. ^ "Stalker". Most Evil. August 19, 2007. Discovery Channel.
  4. ^ Perline, Irvin H.; Goldschmidt, Jona (2004). The Psychology and Law of Workplace Violence: A Handbook for Mental Health Professionals and Employers. Charles C Thomas Publisher. p. 273. ISBN 0-398-07432-1.
  5. ^ Braun, Stephen; Jones, Charisse (July 24, 1989). "Murder suspect seemed as determined as victim". Register-Guard. Eugene, Oregon: Guard Publishing Company. p. 5A. Retrieved January 13, 2013.
  6. ^ Snow, Robert L. (1998). Stopping a Stalker: A Cop's Guide to Making the System Work for You. New York City: Da Capo Press. p. 72. ISBN 0-306-45785-7. Retrieved September 1, 2009.
  7. ^ Moffatt, Gregory (2000). Blind-sided: Homicide where it is Least Expected. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 94–5. ISBN 978-0-275-96929-5.
  8. ^ "Bardo Mouths Lyrics as Rock Song Is Played". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California: Tronc. October 9, 1991. Retrieved January 5, 2013.
  9. ^ Greene, Andy (January 12, 2017). "Flashback: U2 Play 'Exit' on the 1989 Lovetown Tour". Rolling Stone. New York City: Wenner Media LLC. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  10. ^ Stafford, Andrea (October 30, 1991). "Fan Convicted of Murder in Actress' Slaying : Trial: Judge also rules that the obsessed Robert Bardo lay in wait for Rebecca Schaeffer, requiring a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California: Tronc. Retrieved February 21, 2017.
  11. ^ Dawsey, Darrell; Feldman, Paul (July 21, 1989). "Police Directed to Evidence in Actress' Death". The Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California: Tronc. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  12. ^ Finn, Natalie (September 20, 2016). "13 Crimes That Shocked the World & Changed Our Culture Forever". E! Online. New York City: Verizon Media. Retrieved August 18, 2018. The Driver's Protection Privacy Act was subsequently enacted in 1994 because Bardo's investigator was able to obtain Schaeffer's address from the DMV.
  13. ^ "'Law & Order': A $700 DVD Set & 10 Great 'Ripped From the Headlines' Eps".
  14. ^ "Killer of actress stabbed in prison". USA Today. Mclean, Virginia: Gannett Company. Associated Press. July 28, 2007. Retrieved February 25, 2008.
  15. ^ "Inmate Locator". California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Retrieved November 18, 2017.

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