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Famous Murders and Mysteries

Updated on May 01, 2014

Sharon Tate and Frykowski Hours Before Being Murdered

Sharon Tate on Amazon

The Sharon Tate Tragedy

Sharon Tate was a naturally beautiful child and by the time she was a teenager was winning local beauty contests in her home state of Texas. The natural next step was to take her good looks to Hollywood and see if she could land a top notch career as an actress. As it turned out Sharon immediately received guest parts on popular television shows of the early 1960s, and when she was not rehearsing for a part she was earning a decent living as a model. Although she had boyfriends Sharon had her sights set on being a famous actress and for this reason she refrained from getting too serious about her boyfriends. All that changed however, after meeting a peculiar director, Roman Polanski, who was on his way to the top. Sharon dove in to a serious relationship with Roman without hesitation. Polanski regularly cheated on Sharon and was in no way what her mother would have hoped for her beautiful and sweet daughter to hook up with, but it was Hollywood in the 1960s and the chivalrous, respectful male so popular in the 1940s and 50s was going out of style. The modern liberal male who uses women and does as he pleases was in vogue and Sharon Tate was very much a part of the new carefree movement.

Because Roman was anti family and a completely non traditional man it surprised his friends when he and Sharon married. Later, many would say that Roman married for the sake of publicity and in effort to keep Sharon around because he had absolutely no intention of starting a family ever. Approaching her mid 20s Sharon was having a change of heart about her goals. She no longer had ambitions of becoming a great actress and wanted to have a traditional family. She kept her goals a secret from Roman and not long after they married Sharon found out that she was pregnant. She would not reveal this to Roman until she knew that is was absolutely too late to abort the baby.

Upon hearing of his wife's pregnancy Roman was furious. His ideas of having Sharon as a showpiece while he pumped up his own image and gained publicity was being smashed, and the idea of having a baby to care for in place of the wealth he planned to gain angered him. But, after a few months Roman began to warm up to the idea of starting a family with Sharon.He was not, however, about to become a doting husband, and he continued to date other women and take trips without Sharon. Roman was in Europe on August 9, 1969, just one month before Sharon was due to give girth to their son.

Instead of passing the time all alone Sharon had house guests to keep her company. She had Abigail Folger, Jay Sebring, and Wojciech Frykowski in her home. The group had spent the day together taking photographs by the pool and then heading out to El Coyote for dinner.

The group were easing into sleep time mode when the Manson gang broke in through a window. Susan Atkins, Charles Watson, rounded up Sharon and her friends and quickly began stabbing them. They made it clear that their intent was murder, not robbery. Sharon was the last to be killed. She plead with Susan Atkins to spare the life of her baby and was quickly snuffed out by Atkins repeatedly stabbing her in the stomach.

The brutal slaughter made national headlines and lead Sharon Tate's mother to launch a crusade for victims rights.

Lana Turner & Her Daughter (Cheryl Crane)

Good Friday 1958

Lana Turner was a student in Hollywood High in the 1930s who was whisked into instant stardom after being discovered sitting in a drug store. Her life was the ultimate fantasy of a young, beautiful girl going from meager existence to becoming a major Hollywood star, being able to tell her mother to quit her job as a hairdresser to live a life of luxury. Lana dated every handsome leading man worth hooking up with from the 1930s through the 1950s. In today's Hollywood where women are more subservient and less ambitious it is hard to imagine a woman doing and saying the things that Lana Turner did.

She woed and married the men of her choice and by the 1950s she was supporting her daughter, Cheyl Crane and her mother in a beautiful Beverly Hills mansion. In 1957 Lana was 36 years old with five marriages and numerous flings under her belt. She had sewed her wild oats and was ready to come into her own as an actress and as a woman. Lana Turner was not easy to get by a handsome young man at this point in her life. She had been there done that with gusto and had the experience and wisdom of knowing when it was okay to jump in. If Lana was going to marry again it would have to be someone who was at least her equal financially. Unfortunately, Johnny Stompanato was not a man of any great means or status but rather a man who wanted to marry his way into respectability.

Lana dated the handsome Johnny for fun but soon tired of him. She simply had no use for him. The one thing Johnny had was good looks but the only reason a woman of Lana's status would want such an asset would be for show and to pass his looks on to her children. But, Lana had one daughter and was told that she could not have any more children. Good looking ornament men were a dime a dozen in Hollywood for Lana and she wanted rid of Johnny after enjoying him on a few exotic vacations.

Johnny followed Lana everywhere. He saw her as his ticket to instant wealth and when Lana would tell him that she did not want to have him as her serious boyfriend he would threaten to cut up her face. The tension between the couple mounted as Lana was up for an Oscar. Johnny demanded that she take him to to Oscars but Lana had avoided him and took her teenaged daughter Cheryl and her mother instead. When the three women arrived home Cheryl heard her mother's voice raised. She knew that Johnny was in the house waiting for them.

Lana and Johnny were now fighting and Cheryl knew this fight would be a bad one. They were in the Lana's bedroom and Cheryl was in her bedroom directly next door. Cheryl was in a particularly desperate predicament because she could hear everything that was being said perfectly clear and she wondered if she would overhear her mother's murder tonight as Johnny sounded so scary.

Cheryl called out to her mother in hopes that Johnny would calm down but Lana just told Cheryl to get away from the door. Lana tried to be strong by repeating that Cheryl go to bed because John was leaving now. With that statement Johnny began yelling again and making threats to both kill Lana's mother and Cheryl. As this argument intensified Cheryl ran down stairs and grabbed a kitchen knife. She quickly rushed back upstairs to gain some control of the situation. Johnny was coming out of Lana's room holding his clothes over his shoulder and when Cheryl saw his arm up in the air she wasted no time lunging forward with the knife, stabbing Johnny in the stomach to which he looked up at Charyl gasping, "my God, what have you done." He hit the floor unconscious with a thud.

Lana had wanted so desperately to avoid negative publicity but she was now facing her worst nightmare. Cheryl was taken into custody and the death of Johnny Stompanato made international headlines. The Stompanato family started a rumor that was to haunt Lana Turner throughout the rest of her career. They stated that Lana had murdered Johnny in cold blood and that she told her daughter to take the rap for her. The tragedy was something that Lana never spoke of publicly but Cheryl Crane wrote a book, Detour, in 1988.

Lana Turner & Johnny Stompanato

Johnny Stompanato Surprising Lana and Cheryl

The photo above shows Lana and her daughter returning from a trip and Johnny Stompanato surprising them at the airport. Lana was trying to get rid of Johnny and she took her daughter on a trip without a word. Johnny showed up at the airport with photographers so that Lana would be trapped into leaving the airport with Johnny.

Cheryl is smiling for the photographers and attempting to give the press an air of friendliness between the three, but Lana's face shows the stress she was under as Johnny publicly stalked her.

Cheryl Crane in Court

Chester Gillette

Grace Brown

An American Tragedy

Born August 9, 1883, Chester Gillette to an upper middle class family in Montana. Chester's family was deeply religious and gave away all of their wealth, but Chester was one who never got involved with the church the way the rest of his family had and he was intently interested in material riches. His wealthy uncle gave him a fine education and sent him to prep school, however, Chester dropped out and began drifting into odd jobs. After flailing in his ambitions and falling into mediocrity Chester approached his uncle for more help and was handed a job in his skirt factor in Cortland New York.

It was while working in the skirt factory that Chester met Grace Brown, an innocent and serious girl who fell deeply in love with Chester. Shortly after the couple began dating the courtship turned into a physical relationship in which Grace assumed would lead to marriage. In 1906 Grace discovered that she was pregnant and her dream of marriage soon turned into desperation.

Chester had no intention of marrying Grace and began dating several other girls, one in particular. Miss Harriet Benedict, was from a wealthy family and Chester admired her lifestyle. At the factory where Chester and Grace saw each other daily, heated arguments and scenes with Chester looking frustrated and raising his voice and Grace was often in tears were witnessed by the factory workers. Eventually things calmed down when Chester made arrangements for them to take a trip together in the Adirondack Mountains. On July 10, 1906 the couple stayed in a hotel in which Chester registered under a false name, and rented a boat the next day. This was the last time Grace was seen alive.

It did not take long for the story to unravel. Graces' body was soon discovered floating in the lake and although Chester had registered in the hotel with a false name his suitcase bore the initials, CG.

There were numerous letters and witnesses to Chester and Graces' relationship and Chester was found guilty of her murder. On March 30. 1908 Gillette was executed in the electric chair.

This story was the basis for Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy and then the Hollywood version, A Place in the Sun.

Lizzie Borden

Lizzie Borden Took an Axe

Born in Fall River Massachusetts Lizzie Borden's parents were upper middle class. Her father came from a family of wealth but he was raised to learn the value of hard work in rather humble surroundings. This led Mr Borden to become savvy in his own right eventually prospering in sales of furniture and manufacturing. He also owned commercial property and worked as president of the Union bank. Mr. Borden was hard working and very capable of growing his wealth.

The couple had a girl in 1851, Emma Lenora Borden. and later another daughter, Lizzie Borden, born in 1861. They were all active in church functions and Lizzie was a member of several church organizations such as Women's Christian Temperance Union. She appeared to be introverted, but the family maid said Lizzie did not like her stepmother and resented the money her father spent on her.

Andrew Borden married Abby Durfee Gray Borden after his wife passed away and there was instant tension about money in the family due to the fact that the Borden girls were not raised to learn about the process of making money and were upset by all gifts that were being handed to Abby's family. After a very unsettling family argument Lizzie overheard her father turning some of his property over to Abby's sister. Soon after this event Abby Borden was discovered face down after being hacked with an axe 18 times times.

Andrew Jackson Bordon (1822-1892) had gone out for his morning walk and returned to be slaughtered over 11 times with an axe to the head.

Lizzie Bordon was acquitted for the double homicide for lack of evidence. She never married,and remained comfortably wealthy until the day she died on June 1, 1927 at the age of 66.



Lizzie's Parents

The Borden Home

Jodi Arias

Jodi Arias Kills Travis Alexander

Jodi Arias was at a vulnerable time in her life in September of 2006. She had been in a relationship with a man twice her age for over four years and was now having to face the fact that the relationship was going nowhere. Now in her mid 20s Jodi knew that if she wanted to be happily married, financially well off and the mother of four beautiful children, she better get moving.

When her employer began telling her that he joined Legal Shield with the ambition of becoming a millionaire, Jodi became interested and she was soon swept into a group of multi level marketers and booked a trip to Las Vegas. She met Travis Alexander, a young man in his 20s who had worked his way through the ranks and become a Legal Shield success story. Jodi was charmed by Travis and quickly decided that he was her future husband.

Travis instantly liked Jodi but for whatever reason, he was not committing to her. Jodi clung on and did all she could do to win Travis' heart. Travis was a Mormon and Jodi took note of how Travis enjoyed talking to his Mormon friends about church functions and she quickly expressed interest in being baptized Mormon too. When this tactic failed to bring Travis into a commitment with her she began talking to Travis' friends about how much she loved him and wished that he would treat her better. This worked for a while as some of Travis' friends told him to treat Jodi better and act like a man. Travis finally committed to Jodi, they were an official couple after more than six months of dating. Five months later they broke up due to Travis talking regularly to other girls.

Jodi clung to the illusion that they would one day get back together and regularly called Travis to ask for advice. She also began luring him in with sex. She thought that if she could not get him interested emotionally., she could seduce him to the point of making him fall in love with her. Travis began taking advantage of the free sex that Jodi offered no knowing what the consequences would be.

The more Jodi was used sexually by Travis the more resentful she became. After hearing that Travis was prepared to take another girl with him on a trip to Cancun Jodi rented a car, borrowed gas containers, and headed to Mesa Arizona for one last tryst with Travis. After the couple engaged in sex Travis walked into the shower with Jodi following with Travis' new camera in hand. She photographed Travis as she plunged a knife into his back repeatedly, shot him in the head and then slit his throat from ear to ear. After killing Travis, Jodi dragged the body back into the shower to rinse off the blood and any signs of evidence. She apparently cleaned the room, took off the sheets and put them through the wash to erase her DNA. Jodi made one major mistake.

She put the camera in the was with all the sheets and then fled. When crime scene detectives found the camera they discovered the photos of Jodi in bed with Travis and then the photos of Travis being stabbed. Jodi is serving life without parole.


Jodi and Travis

Betty Broderick

Betty and Dan

Dan and Linda

A Woman Scorned

Betty Broderick was in college when she met the man who would become her husband. Betty appreciated how hard working Dan Broderick was and thought that he would make an ideal husband for her. They married in 1969 with a huge Catholic wedding and quickly began starting their family that eventually included two boys and two girls. Life was no piece of cake as Betty worked odd jobs, baby sat, and lived on a shoestring budget while her husband focused on his education.

In the early 1980s things were looking up for the Brodericks. President Reagan had launched tax cuts across the board which helped the lower middle class get ahead and the Brodericks were now on the road to riches. No longer was Betty Broderick seen taking the family to the laundromat, instead they were taking skiing trips in Colorado. Unfortunately, the happiness and prosperity was short lived for Betty. Not long after Dan began his own legal practice in downtown San Diego, he hired a 21 year old receptionist named, Linda Kolkena.

The saga of Betty Broderick Dan and Linda Kolkena began when Dan needed a receptionist for his firm. He hired Linda Kolkena, who was completely inexperienced in the legal field, but an affair between Dan and Linda began and Linda was promoted to legal assistant and given her own luxurious office. It was not long before Betty was suspicious. When confronted Dan denied having an affair with Linda but refused to let her go. After years of unhappiness and suspicion on Betty's part Dan finally admitted he had been having an affair all along and he began proceedings to divorce Betty.

Betty was reluctant to get the divorce and regularly made a spectacle of herself calling and leaving vulgar messages on Dan's answering service. In fact, Betty's calm and sensible demeanor was completely gone with an angry overweight shell of her former self had completely taken over.

Dan and Linda married and began planning a family, but Betty simply could not take it. She sneaked into Dan's home and shot both Linda and Dan to death, and Betty became the most notorious scorned woman of all time.

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