Young upcoming actress, Rebecca Schaeffer

Robert John Bardo, Obsessed Fan

On July 18th, 1989, a young and upcoming actress, Rebecca Schaeffer, was murdered by Robert John Bardo, an obsessed fan. After a brief career in modeling and small parts in commercials, Schaeffer landed her break at 19 years of age, winning one of the starring roles on the television sitcom, My Sister Sam in 1986. It was during her stint on this television series that Schaeffer attracted the attention of Bardo, a young man living in Tucson, Arizona. Bardo was attracted to Schaeffer’s youthful image and soon began writing fan letters. His letter-writing eventually progressed to efforts to gain access to Schaeffer on the set of her show. Following the cancellation of My Sister Sam, Schaeffer tried to break into feature films. She obtained a small role in the film, Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills, which Schaeffer hoped would allow her to transition into more serious, adult roles. Bardo, still fascinated winth Schaeffer, saw the film and was outraged by a scene in which Schaeffer was lying in bed with a male character. He felt the scene was a betrayal of Schaeffer’s wholesome image and began to become increasingly hostile in his letters, referring to Schaeffer as “Miss Nudity 2-shoes.” Eventually, as Bardo became infuriated by his failure to contact Schaeffer, he hired a private detective agency, which was able to obtain Schaeffer’s address through motor vehicle records. Over the course of his obsession, Bardo had developed delusional beliefs that God had appointed him to punish and kill Schaeffer for becoming an “adult fornicating screen whore.” He showed up at Schaeffer’s apartment, spoke with her briefly, and showed her an autographed photo he had received from her in a fan mail package. Schaeffer asked Bardo to leave and not return. Shortly thereafter, Bardo returned, rang the doorbell, and shot Schaeffer once in the chest. In the aftermath of Schaeffer’s death, the state of California would enact the first official stalking law in the United States (Meloy, 1998).