The life of the rich and famous seems glorious to the public; we can only see the luxury, the power, and the beauty. It all appears like a dream to the masses. We must not forget that—at the end of the day— celebrities are merely ordinary people, and life can sometimes serve up something that fame and money cannot undo or repair. If that something is as serious as murder or manslaughter, things get complicated, and being famous can actually become a downside—it truly depends on the situation. Some celebrities apparently got what they deserved, and others got away easily. In the following list, you will be able to read about celebrities that intentionally or unintentionally killed people.
1. Michael Jace
Michael Jace, famous for the role of Julian Lowe in the TV series The Shield (2002-2008) was convicted of murder after shooting his wife April Jace three times in 2014. He later said that he did not want to kill her, but only to injure her. Sadly, the murder happened before the eyes of their two boys, who were aged 5 and 8. The older son testified and said that his dad said to his mom that if she wants to run, then she will run to Heaven. The murderer called 911 immediately after he realized what he had done.
Apparently Michael Jace had a lot of financial problems and had applied for bankruptcy three years before the incident. On the day of the shooting, his wife reportedly asked him for a divorce.
The killer was sentenced to serve 40 years behind bars.
2. Chris Benoit
The famous wrestling superstar Chris Benoit did something truly horrible nearly 11 years ago. Reports state that he strangled his wife first, after which he killed his son aged 7, quickly smothering him. Benoit then hung himself from a weight machine pulley. After the brutal murders and the suicide that followed, a lot of speculations started regarding the alleged steroid abuse Benoit was going through. Another report suggested that the former wrestler had actually been suffering from a head trauma for several years, and that trauma might have contributed to the severe brain damage which led to the tragedy—apparently the trauma messed with his head enough to make him lose the sense of reality and kill his own family.
3. Don King
King is one of most famous boxing-related names in history. He has two murder cases in his past.
The first time he shot to death a man who intended to rob a gambling house King owned in 1954; the court spared him prison time, ruling that it was an act of self-defense.
Twenty-two years after that incident, King was involved in another situation that ended up being a murder. He was found guilty of beating a man to death over a debt. The boxing legend went to jail that time, but he was paroled four years later by the Governor of Ohio.
4. Matthew Broderick
Right after filming “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, the stars of the film—Matthew Broderick and Jennifer Grey—decided to take a trip around Ireland in 1987. Soon after their vacation began, disaster struck. Broderick got distracted and forgot what side of the road he was supposed to be driving on. His rental car crashed head-on with another vehicle, and the mother and daughter in the car died as a result of the collision. Broderick himself was badly hurt, and only Grey got away without a scratch, but Grey was severely traumatized emotionally. Eventually, Broderick was fined $175 for reckless driving.
5. Sid Vicious
You have probably heard of the notorious punk rocker Sid Vicious, who was also known to be a heavy heroin addict. He pushed things too far when he stabbed Nancy Spungen, his girlfriend at the time, to death. The murder happened in a room of the Chelsea Hotel. Police reports state that the musician could not remember anything that happened during the whole night because he was under the influence of drugs. While the investigation was still ongoing, Vicious was out free on bail to wait for the trail; he never went to court, though. While hanging out at one of his friends’ home, he overdosed and died.
6. Vince Neil
Mötley Crüe singer Vince Neil has a wild past behind him, but there is a particularly dark spot hidden in that past. During the last days of 1984, he was out all day drinking with his colleague and friend Nicholas “Razzle” Dingley, who was the drummer of Hanoi Rocks. They decided to go and buy more alcohol, and Neil was seated in the driver’s seat. Soon after that, he was unable to handle driving the car, and he crashed head-on with another vehicle. Dingley died instantly, and the passengers in the other car were badly injured. He spent only about a month behind bars, but ended up paying millions of dollars to the relatives of the victims.
You might say that he got out of that situation easy, but it seems that Neil had a hard time living with the thought of what happened. In an interview he gave 13 years ago, he said that he deserved to go in prison after Dingley’s death, but he paid 2.5 million dollars instead. He admitted that his cash was a powerful asset, and though he deserved to go to jail, he continued with his lavish lifestyle instead.
7. Phil Spector
After a long night of drinking alcohol in 2003, the record producer pulled a gun to actress Lana Clarkson’s head and pulled the trigger because she rejected him. A little later, he reportedly said to his personal driver that he thought he killed someone. During the trial, Spector’s defense tried to claim that the chauffeur did not hear him correctly because he was not a native English speaker and there were background noises coming from a close distance. The court’s jury did not believe that story, and after the trial ended six years after the murder, Spector got 19 years-to-life in prison.
8. Tony Stewart
Needless to say, automobile racing in any form is not a safe sport, but deaths are very rare when you consider the amount of accidents that happen. However, when Tony Stewart hit Kevin Ward during a dirt-track event at New York’s Canandaigua Motorsports Park, Ward was killed instantly. It was a very controversial accident, as Ward stepped out of his vehicle and walked around the track while the race was still active. All charges against Stewart were later dropped, and it was announced that Ward had smoked marijuana prior to his death and allegedly started the race under the influence of the drug.
Stewart was sued by Ward’s family, who claims that no matter the circumstances Stewart could have avoided him on the track. At the moment, the legal battle is still going on.
9. Charles S. Dutton
The 90’s FOX sitcom star apparently had rough life prior to his acting career. He used to be a troubled kid that was always involved in fights and loved throwing rocks. The violence Dutton was surrounded by took its toll, and he ended up killing a man when he was 17 years old.
Dutton pleaded self-defense but he still got convicted and served five years. He later attacked a prison guard, and eight more years were added to the initial five he received. A decade of life behind bars almost got him solitary confinement; that’s when he got his hands on a book of plays that a girlfriend sent him. That single book literally changed his life for good. He says that was the moment he knew that he was born to be an actor, and he even made arrangements to create a drama class in jail.
When he got released, he got his Master’s Degree in acting from Yale, and he later won an Emmy award for his stage performance entitled “From Jail to Yale”.
10. Rebecca Gayheart
Gayheart was behind the wheel of a friend’s car one day in LA in 2001 when she accidentally hit Jorge Cruz Jr., a nine-year old boy who jaywalked suddenly across the street. The kid survived the initial crash and was rushed to the hospital, but he later passed away. Eyewitnesses claimed that cars stopped to let the boy cross, but Gayheart decided to overtake them through a left turn lane and hit the boy.
The actress was not under the influence of any kind of substance. During the trial she agreed to plead guilty of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter. Her sentence included a three-year probation period, one-year driver’s license suspension, 750 hours of community service, and a mere $2,800 fine. She never spoke about the incident at the time, but her lawyer said that it was the most terrible thing that could happen and that she felt awful. The boy’s family filed a civil suit against her and she settled, but the amount of money was not disclosed.
Four years after the accident, Gayheart said that she really could not pull herself together after the crash; even though many years had passed, she still could not get over it.
11. Keith Moon
The drummer of the notorious band “The Who” was involved in a bizarre accident in which he ran over his personal driver Neil Boland with his Bentley; this happened after he reportedly tried to escape a group of skinheads who tried to get their hands on the drummer. Later Moon was accused of driving without an active insurance, without a license, and under the influence of alcohol. The charges were later dropped, and the judge even told him that considering the circumstances Moon did the only thing he could do, justifying his actions completely.
12. Gig Young
Gig Young was a successful actor with three Oscar nominations and one Academy Award for best supporting actor in 1970 movie They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
His personal life was not exactly the definition of success. Young became an alcoholic, lost his second wife to cancer, and divorced three times. Three years after he won an Oscar, he managed to get fired from the Blazing Saddles production, where he got the leading role. He was not capable of performing, and eventually Gene Wilder replaced him.
From that moment on, his reputation became worse and worse—he was known to be unreliable. The downhill slope for him ended just five years later. He married a German actress named Kim Schmidt, and just three weeks later he shot her dead, after which he committed suicide with the same gun. Young’s agent and friend of many years Martin Baum inherited most of his possessions and commented that he thought things were going well for Young, but his problems turned out to be buried beneath the surface.
13. Michael Massee
The actor had the misfortune to be the one who pulls the trigger, killing rising movie star Brandon Lee in what was supposed to be just another scene of filming The Crow in 1993.
Massee played the bad guy in the movie—Funboy. The scene was though to show how Funboy kills Lee’s character, and that ultimately led to a lot of conspiracy after the incident. Investigation showed that a dummy-bullet fragment got stuck in the gun’s chamber and was released upon pulling the trigger, after which it hit Lee near his spine, causing enough damage that Lee lost his life.
Michael Massee died at 64 years of age in 2006 after battling cancer. He spoke only once about what happened on the set back in 1993. He said that he was shocked to a point where he could not do anything for a year, adding that he believed nobody could actually overcome something like what happened.
14. Lillo Brancato
Brancato is best known for his roles in the 1993 movie A Bronx Tale and the Sopranos TV-series (1997-2007). He basically tossed his career and life in the trash after he got involved in a robbery that went very wrong in 2005.
He was notorious for his drug addiction, and that is what made him and his accomplice Steven Armento break into the house of a friend of Brancato. The actor was convinced that there were drugs inside. Upon breaking inside, a neighbor who turned out to be part of the NYPD—Daniel Enchautegui— heard the noise and notified 911. He then went over to see what was going on. He stumbled across the two burglars, and Armento shot him.
Brancato was wounded twice by the dying police officer. He was later found guilty of armed burglary and served 10 years in prison. Upon his parole, the former actor claimed that he takes the responsibility for the accident and that his decisions definitely influenced the events that led to the police officer’s death.
15. Lane Garrison
Lane Garrison was enjoying the rise of his acting career in 2006 when he just turned 26. He had already secured a role in the Prison Break series (2005-2007) and a part in the Shooter movie (2007) starring Mark Wahlberg. But things took a wrong turn in December the same year when he decided to go to a party along with a bunch of teens he had just met at a parking lot.
He went to the party and reportedly decided to drive them back when he crashed his Land Rover into a tree. One of the teens, the 17-year-old Vahagn Setian, died in the hospital from his injuries, and another two 15-year old girls were injured—but survived. Garrison was found to have alcohol in his blood and was under the influence of a drug substance. Later, during trial, he was found guilty of all charges and received a 40-month sentence.
After getting out of jail, he wanted to contact the Setian family; however, a court order prohibited him from doing so. He later said that all he cared about was not the time he spent behind bars, but the fact that he was responsible for the death of a young man.
The famous singer Brandy was involved in a car crash in the end of 2006. She reportedly hit another car from behind, causing a chain collision. The woman in the car she hit first—Awatef Aboudihaj—later died from her injuries. The following investigation took a year to complete, and the result was that there was not enough evidence to press charges against Brandy for manslaughter. The singer had to settle a few lawsuits from the other people involved in the crash. Brandy later paid $300,000 to each of the two sons of the woman, who were present in the car during the accident.
Eight years later the singer was speaking with Oprah Winfrey and told her that she held on tight to her faith in God to pull her through the harsh time. For a long time, she apparently could not believe that such a thing could happen to her, saying that it was among the worst moments in her life so far.