29 Celebrities Who Were Murdered: Their Tragic Ends

celebrities who were murdered christina grimmie in a black jumpsuti arriving at an event
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Get out the tissues because this list is sure to bring on tears of heartbreak and disgust at the world we live in. Just because someone is a celebrity, it doesn’t mean that they’re immune from the evils of the world, and these 29 celebrities are just a few examples of that sad truth. They had everything as they brought joy to the world in their respective fields, be it movies, music, or sports, yet someone else tragically decided it was their time to die.

Here’s a list of 29 celebrities who were murdered.

1. Tupac Shakur

who killed tupac rappers who got shot
Rome, January 11, 2019: Collection of covers and cd inserts of the singer Tupac Shakur, considered by many to be one of the greatest hip hop artists of all time. selective focus. Image from shutterstock.

The murder of rapper Tupac Shakur may have happened almost more than 25 years ago, but he’s still one of the celebrities who were murdered whose case continues to make headlines today as it seems his killer is finally being brought to justice.

Shakur was shot in the late hours of September 7, 1996, while he was stopped at a red light in Las Vegas. He was shot four times and later died from internal bleeding caused by his wounds on September 13. Years of investigation left the case cold until September 29, 2023, when Duane “Keffe D” Davis was arrested in relation to the incident.

Related: How Did Tupac Die?

2. John Lennon

john lennon statue at madam tussands
Prague, Czech republic, July 22, 2017: John Lenon in Grevin museum of the wax figures in Prague. Image from Shutterstock.

The day John Lennon was tragically murdered was a sad one for Beatles fans everywhere. What started out as an innocent autograph for a fan, turned tragically violent.

As he headed from his apartment at The Dakota for a recording session at approximately 5 p.m. on December 8, 1980, Lennon gladly signed a copy of Double Fantasy for a fan, later revealed as Mark David Chapman, before heading off to a recording session. Upon returning in a limousine nearly six hours later, Lennon was shot four times, twice in the back and twice in the shoulder, by Chapman from close range. By the time he was brought to Roosevelt Hospital, it wasn’t long before he was pronounced dead.

In a short statement the next day, his wife, Yoko Ono, stated, “There is no funeral for John. John loved and prayed for the human race. Please do the same for him.”

Related: What Was John Lennon’s Net Worth?

3. The Notorious B.I.G.

how did the notorious BIG die
Sculpture of The Notorious B.I.G. Photo by InSappoWeTrust on Wikimedia Commons

The tragic end for The Notorious B.I.G. is not dissimilar to that of Tupac Shakur on our celebrities who were murdered list. While stopped at a red light after leaving a party at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, a black Chevy Impala pulled up alongside his car and shot several rounds with a 9 mm blue-steel pistol at the “Juicy” rapper’s car.

Unfortunately, he was struck with four bullets, although the autopsy later revealed that the final shot proved to be the fatal blow as it entered his right hip before hitting his colon, liver, heart, and left lung before finally settling in his left shoulder.

Related: How Did Notorious B.I.G. Die?

4. Sharon Tate

sharon tate on set filming a movie
Sharon Tate in 1969. Image is in the Public Domain.

Sharon Tate is one of the celebrities who were murdered on our list whose final end was even more tragic than it seemed on the surface. On August 9, 1969, the Valley of the Dolls actress was murdered, along with four others, by the Manson Family cult.

What’s even more heart-wrenching is that the actress was nearly nine months pregnant with her and director Roman Polanski’s child, whom the latter posthumously named Paul Richard Polanski. “Sharon’s death is the only watershed in my life that really matters,” Roman Polanski later wrote in his autobiography, as he expressed regret that he was absent from the home at the time of the murders.

5. Marvin Gaye

marvin gaye record albums spread across the floor
Image from Shutterstock.

Prince of Motown Marvin Gaye’s tragic end came in 1984. Sadly, the “Ain’t That Peculiar” singer’s life was taken at the hands of his father following a physical altercation with him, during which Marvin Gay Sr. shot his son twice. The first bullet served the fatal blow, entering Gaye’s chest and piercing his heart. Gaye was pronounced dead on April 1, 1984, a day shy of his 45th birthday.

Related: What We Know About The Death of Marvin Gaye

6. Selena Quintanilla

singers who were murdered selena movie
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The events leading up to the murder of Selena Quintanilla are extensive and shocking. Known as the Queen of Tejano Music, Quintanilla was murdered by Yolanda Saldivar via a fatal gunshot wound to the right shoulder, which severed her subclavian artery.  

The altercation came after months of controversy after Saldivar was hired to manage Quintanilla’s boutique early in the previous year. As the pair got closer professionally, others began to get worried for Quintanilla’s well-being. Eventually, after it was discovered that Saldivar had embezzled funds from the boutiques as well as a fake Selena fan club, Quintanilla, and Saldivar had a confrontation after the former demanded to see financial statements.

The gun that delivered the fatal blow to Quintanilla was taken from her own purse by Saldivar. Fortunately, though it would ultimately end her life as a trail of blood followed her, the “Como la Flor” singer was able to alert hotel employees to the events of the evening, and Saldivar was apprehended. At least she received quick justice before being pronounced dead on March 31, 1995.

Related: The Unfortunate True Story of Selena Quintanilla’s Death

7. Christina Grimmie

christina grimmie in a black jumpsuti arriving at an event
Image from Shutterstock.

Singer Christina Grimmie, best known for being a contestant on the sixth season of The Voice, was only 22 years old when she was sadly murdered on June 10, 2016. Her death was a tragic murder-suicide situation when she was approached by who she thought was a fan, Kevin James Loibl, the evening of her murder and was shot three times at point-blank range in the head and chest. After getting into an altercation with Grimmie’s brother, the 27-year-old Loibl shot himself.

8. Gianni Versace

wax figurine of gianni versache
Image from Shutterstock.

Gianni Versace was one of the most well-known fashion designers in the industry. Unfortunately, he became one of the many victims of spree killer Andrew Cunanan on July 15, 1997. Versace was re-entering his Miami Beach home after retrieving his morning magazines when Cunnan approached him and shot him in the head with a .40 caliber Taurus PT 100. Versace was later pronounced dead at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Cunana killed himself eight days later.

9. Phil Hartman

an action device on a movie set
Image by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Actor and screenwriter Phil Hartman, best known for his role as Captain Carl on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and his involvement with Saturday Night Live, sadly had his spot on the list of celebrities who were murdered on May 28, 1998.

His is the story of an argument that turned fatal after his third wife, Brynn Omdahl, fatally shot Hartman between the eyes, in the throat, and the upper chest after the couple got into an argument on the evening of May 27, 1998. It was later revealed that Omdahl was under the influence of alcohol, cocaine, and Zoloft at the time of the murder.

10. XXXTentacion

mural of famous rappers including xxxtenacion
Image from Shutterstock

We’re sad to say that several rappers have ended up on our celebrities who were murdered list, and XXXTentacion is one of the latest, having been killed on June 18, 2018.

The “Vice City” singer and rapper was leaving the Riva Motorsports Motorcycle & Marine Superstore in Deerfield Beach, Florida, when his exit was blocked by a Dodge Journey SUV. What turned out to be an intended robbery left with the shooters stealing a Louis Vuitton bag with $50,000 in it and shooting the rapper multiple times before fleeing the scene. It took two months for all four perpetrators to be arrested, and the trials finally ended on February 7, 2023.

Related: The Unexpected Death of Rapper XXXTentacion

11. Elizabeth Short

elizabeth short before her death
Image is in the Public Domain.

Elizabeth Short, aka Black Dahlia, was sadly killed in January 1947, although it remains unclear whether her death occurred on the 14th or the 15th. While Short was not a well-known figure at the time of her death, she became well-known due to the grim nature of the events surrounding her death.

While the events of her death remain unknown, her body was discovered on January 15, 1947, naked and severed into two pieces. Along with that, all the blood had been drained from her body and she was slashed from her ears to the corners of her mouth. Multiple other cuts accompanied these throughout her body. Sadly, the tragic story has been continually accompanied by the question, “Who Killed the Black Dahlia?” as the case has never been solved.

12. Jam Master Jay

jam master jay
Image from Shutterstock.

Jam Master Jay is one of the celebrities who were murdered in the last century on this list. Known for being the disc jockey of Run-DMC, he was killed on October 30, 2002, in his recording studio in Jamaica, Queens. It would take 18 years before an arrest was made, and the trial of Karl Jordan Jr. is set to begin in November 2023.

13. Adrienne Shelly

songs about death a pot with in loving memory on it with flowers in it
Image by Sandy Millar on Unsplash.

Adrienne Shelly, best known for films like The Unbelievable TruthTrust, and Waitress, was a recent instance on our list of celebrities who were murdered after the events of November 1, 2006. That evening she was found hanging from a shower rod by her husband, Andy Ostroy, initially leading investigators to believe that her death was a suicide. However, upon further investigation, a shoe print was found in the bathroom where Shelly was discovered, and 19-year-old Diego Pillco was arrested and eventually admitted to the murder.

14. Nicole Brown Simpson

OJ simpson in a suit in 1990 arriving for court
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It was her tragic murder that led to the Trial of the Century. Nicole Brown Simpson, the ex-wife of National Football League superstar O.J. Simpson, was gruesomely stabbed to death alongside her friend, Ron Goldman, on June 12, 1994. The events of the murder eventually led to the arrest of O.J. Simpson who was ultimately acquitted of both murders. Many still believe his guilt, but the case has never officially ended in a conviction.

15. Dominique Dunne

an image of a grave
(No licensable image available) Image from Shutterstock.

Dominique Dunne was less than a month shy of her 23rd birthday when she was murdered on November 4, 1982. The CHiPs actress was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, John Thomas Sweeney, on October 30, 1982. It was clearly an emotional turmoil moment for Sweeney who apparently couldn’t accept the split telling police when they arrived, “I killed my girlfriend, and I tried to kill myself.” He also later admitted to the pair arguing before the murder and that all he could remember was his arms around Dunne’s neck.

16. Sam Cooke

sam cooke in the recording studio in 1961
Image is in the Public Domain.

Singer and songwriter Samuel Cooke was fatally shot at the Hacienda Motel in Los Angeles on December 11, 1964. The well-known “King of Soul” with such songs like “You Send Me,” “Twistin’ the Night Away,” and “Bring It on Home to Me,” was killed by motel manager Bertha Franklin, who said she shot Cooke in self-defense after he intruded her office shouting, “Where’s the girl?!” referring to the woman who accompanied him to the hotel. An investigation later confirmed Franklin’s story and his death was ruled a justifiable homicide.

Elisa Boyer, the woman who came with him the hotel, later said that Cooke had forced her to come to the hotel and was in fear that Cooke was going to rape her and was eventually able to flee the hotel and call the police.

17. Dorothy Stratten

someone placing a candle by a grave
(No licensable image available) Image from Shutterstock.

Model Dorothy Stratten, August 1979’s Playboy Playmate of the Month and 1980’s Playmate of the Year, was murdered on August 14, 1980, by her estranged husband Paul Snider before the latter committed suicide soon after.

The day before the murder it was discovered that Snider purchased a 12-gauge, pump-action shotgun, telling friends he was “going to take up hunting.” Both were later found naked and deceased around 11 p.m. that evening by Snider’s roommates.

18. JonBenét Ramsey

image of graves in a graveyard
(No licensable image available) Image from Shutterstock.

Of all the celebrities who were murdered, this one is the most gut-wrenching because child beauty queen JonBenét Ramsey was just 6 years old when she was killed in her family’s Boulder, Colorado, home on December 25 or 26, 1996. 

When she was found seven hours after being reported missing in the basement of the house, she had a broken skull and had clearly been strangled to death because of the garrote found around her neck. What’s even more challenging to understand is that the case remains cold, and no one has ever been charged with the gruesome killing. 

19. Natalie Wood

Natalie Wood's star on the hollywood walk of fame
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Natalie Wood was in the spotlight from the time she was 8 after co-starring in the hit holiday film Miracle on 34th Street and later, as a teenager, in Rebel Without a Cause. Unfortunately, she was only 43 years old when she unexpectedly passed away on November 29, 1981.

Unlike the others on our list of celebrities who were murdered, Wood’s death remains a mystery. While her official cause of death was drowning, many of the circumstances surrounding her death remain unknown leading many to believe that there was foul play involved. This was backed up by the fact that she was found with bruises on her body and arms and an abrasion on her left cheek.  

Related: The 27 Most Popular Female Celebrities of All Time

20. John F. Kennedy

john F kennedy with his nephew robert f kennedy in the white house
Image is in the Public Domain.

It was the event that everyone around the world knew about and became a question for years: “Where were you when John F. Kennedy was shot?”

President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald, a former U.S. Marine, on November 22, 1963, while riding in the presidential motorcade with his wife, Jacqueline, through Dallas, Texas’ Dealey Plaza. Kennedy was pronounced dead just 30 minutes later. Oswald was shot and killed two days later by Jack Ruby.  

Related: 25 Most Famous People of All Time

21. Dimebag Darrell

dimebag darell performing on stage
Image from Shutterstock.

It was a moment no fans were going to forget. Dimebag Darrell’s end came on December 8, 2004, when deranged fan Nathan Gale rushed onto the stage of the Alrosa Villa nightclub in Columbus, Ohio, where Darrell was performing with Damageplan, and shot the musician with a semi-automatic pistol. Afterward, four others, including Gale, were killed, and three were injured in the ensuing struggle.

Darrell’s public memorial was attended by thousands of fan who mourned the 38-year-old artist. During the funeral, Eddie Van Halen said of the late musician, “Dime was an originally and only an original deserves the original,” as he donated his original black-and-yellow-striped “Bumblebee” guitar that just weeks earlier Darrell had asked the “Runnin’ with the Devil” artist to make him a replica of.

Related: How Did Eddie Van Halen Die?

22. Andrés Escobar

songs about dying
(No licensable images available) Image by Murat Karahan on Unsplash.

Andrés Escobar is an unfortunate example of lousy sportsmanship at its worst. Following the 1994 FIFA World Cup, during which the professional Colombian footballer scored an own goal, resulting in his team being eliminated from the tournament.

Six days later on July 2, 1994, Escobar was in the parking lot of a nightclub when he was approached by three men who began arguing with him before pulling a handgun on him. He was shot six times with a pistol with the shooter shouting “¡Gol!” (“Goal!”) after each hit.  

23. Princess Diana

princess diana as she appears on a postage stamp
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Princess Diana was the “People’s Princess” not just in England but worldwide, which is why her tragic death on August 31, 1997, left fans everywhere in mourning. While the official cause of death was wounds sustained in a car crash, many have called her death a homicide due to the nature of the crash.

Her driver, Henri Paul, crashed the car while trying to flee with Diana and her companion, Dodi Fayed, from the paparazzi. Many have believed it never would have happened had it not been for the harassment of the media.

24. Carl Switzer

movie theme songs
(No licensable images available) Photo by GR Stocks on Unsplash.

Carl Switzer was one of the hit child actors of the 30s, best known for his role as Alfalfa in Our Gang. He was unfortunately one of the child actors who wasn’t able to have that translated into adulthood. Even more tragic, he was fatally shot by an acquaintance on January 21, 1959, due to a financial dispute.

25. Rebecca Schaeffer

rebecca schaeffer posing for a photo with a guitar
Image is in the Public Domain.

Actress and model Rebecca Schaeffer, best known for her short-lived role as Patricia “Patti” Russell in My Sister Sam, was only 21 when she was shot and killed.

Her murderer was 19-year-old Robert John Bardo, an obsessed fan who had been stalking her for several years. Thankfully, her death was not in vain as it helped lead to California’s passage of legislation to prevent stalking.

26. Martin Luther King Jr.

martin luther king jr at a civil rights demonstration wearing a suit
Image taken in 1963. Image is in the Public Domain.

Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the most significant leaders of the civil rights movement in the mid-1950s and 1960s, promoting a culture of nonviolence and civil disobedience amongst people of color. Sadly, violence is what took his life in the end as he was shot by James Earl Ray in the evening hours of April 4, 1968, on the second-floor balcony of King’s Memphis hotel.

The bullet hit King’s right cheek, smashed his jaw, and traveled down his spinal cord before ultimately lodging in his shoulder. While surgeons tried to save him with an emergency chest surgery, he was declared dead just over an hour after the shooting. His autopsy later led biographer Taylor Branch to say that the 39-year-old “had the heart of a 60-year-old” most likely due to the stress of 13 years fighting for civil rights.

27. Malcolm X

malcolm x in a suit posing for a photo
Image is in the Public Domain.

Martin Luther King Jr was not the only activist on our list of celebrities who were murdered. Malcolm X was also tragically murdered three years before King on February 21, 1965.

While preparing to address the Organization of Afro-American Unity, one man shot Malcolm X in the chest before two others charged forward and continued shooting him. The autopsy revealed that he sustained 21 overall gunshot wounds to the chest, arms, legs, and left shoulder. The gunmen were identified as Talmadge Hayer, Norma 3X Butler, and Thomas 15X Johnson. All three were subsequently convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison in March 1966.

28. Abraham Lincoln

abraham lincoln in a suit posing for a photo
Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Image is in the Public Domain.

John F. Kennedy may have been one president to appear on the celebrities who were murdered list, but he’s not the only one. Prior to Kennedy’s high-profile assassination, President Abraham Lincoln was the one most talked about when he was fatally shot in the back of the head by actor John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.

The fatal shooting happened on April 14, 1965, and he was pronounced dead the next day. President Lincoln’s assassination by Booth was believed to be a plot by the Confederate Army, for whom the latter was a spy. Refusing to give himself up, Booth was shot two weeks later on a farm in Virginia by Sergeant Boston Corbett.

29. David “Stringbean” Akeman

an accoustic guitar on a hardwood floor
(No licensable images available) Image by De An Sun on Unsplash

When it came to old-time country music, Hee Haw was the television show to watch, and David “Stringbean” Akeman was one of the main cast members that fans everywhere loved. Sadly, the Grand Ole Opry member was shot dead upon returning from a performance at the famed stage by gunmen who had reportedly been waiting for hours.

It is believed that the murder of Akeman and his wife was led to because of the former’s distrust of banks with his money following financial failures throughout the Great Depression. This led to rumors spreading that he often carried a large amount of cash on him at all times. During the murder, he and his wife were carrying $5,700 on them combined. Their bodies were discovered by their neighbor, fellow musician Louis “Grandpa” Jones.

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Written by Katie Peterson

Katie Peterson received her bachelor's degree in English from the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth in 2015. She has worked in journalism since 2015, beginning as production assistant and eventual head staff writer of the Fort Leavenworth Lamp newspaper in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Currently, she is a multimedia journalist with the Diocese of Nashville's Office of Media and Evangelization where she writes, does photography, and edits for several types of content, including the Tennessee Register, Catholic Awakenings, and She has also worked as a freelance journalist with the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas's newspaper, The Leaven, since 2016.
In her spare time, Peterson enjoys reading, spending time with her pup, Sadie Lynn, singing and songwriting.


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