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Arrest Warrant Issued for ‘Obsessive Fan’ of Rebecca Schaeffer

July 20, 1989 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A man described as ″an obsessive fan″ of Rebecca Schaeffer was held Wednesday in Arizona for investigation into the shooting death of the actress who starred in ″My Sister Sam.″

Authorities filed a felony arrest warrant Wednesday for Robert John Bardo, 19, of Tucson, a former fast-food restaurant worker who was arrested by Tucson police earlier Wednesday for running in front of cars.

Miss Schaeffer, 21, was shot Tuesday by a man who stood outside her apartment building for nearly four hours, witnesses said. A neighbor said a man was flashing a picture of the actress and asking where she lived hours before the shooting.


Bardo was ″an obsessive fan of Miss Schaeffer,″ said Deputy District Attorney Robert E. Savitt, who filed the complaint.

After arresting Bardo, Tucson police called Los Angeles because of statements he made, said Lt. Fred Nixon, a Los Angeles police spokesman.

Miss Schaeffer, star of recent movies in addition to the ″My Sister Sam″ television series also starring Pam Dawber, was shot once in the chest at 10:15 a.m. in the city’s tony Fairfax district, police said.

The killer may have rung her doorbell. Police Detective Dan Andrews said the actress may have known the assailant or ″was just a trusting person.″

Andrews said police were tipped by a friend of Bardo’s living in Tennessee, who called police headquarters about 2 a.m. Wednesday to tell them of ″Bardo’s obsession.″

Andrews said the woman told police that Bardo said he had a video collection of ″My Sister Sam″ shows and an autographed publicity photo of the actress. He said Bardo had sent a letter to Miss Schaeffer about a year ago, ″but there is no indication she ever saw it.″

″I wouldn’t call it a threatening letter. I would call it an affectionate letter, but a bit rambling,″ he said.

Andrews said ″He also expressed to his friend that he was going to harm Miss Schaeffer.″ But the detective said it was unclear to investigators why Bardo allegedly might have wanted to harm the actress.

″There is an indication that there was an ongoing attempt to contact her,″ Andrews said, adding that Bardo had called Miss Schaeffer’s agency several times in the past.

Bardo appeared to be very tired and dirty when discovered on the freeway, said Tucson police spokesman Sgt. Paul Hallums. Bardo formerly worked at a Tucson fast-food restaurant and reportedly attended a Tucson high school, he said.

″The guy’s real passive with everybody. He’s being passive and polite with everybody,″ Hallums said.

Hallums said the man was wearing a white t-shirt, jeans and sandals, ″had dark hair, kind of shaggy.″

Neighbor Irene Tishkoff said Tuesday she saw a ″bookish looking″ man with curly brown hair flashing the photo of Miss Schaeffer hours before the slaying.

″He stopped me and he pulled this picture out of a large manila envelope packed with junk and it was her,″ she said. ″He asked if I had seen this girl in the neighborhood. I said, ‘What?’ and just turned away. I thought it was strange.″

Police found no indication that Miss Schaeffer was being harassed, Andrews said. A former boyfriend was questioned, but was not a suspect.

″She didn’t have an enemy in the world,″ said her agent, Jonathan Howard. ″She was a very successful young actress, on the ascent, getting job after job. I can’t believe this has happened.″

Witnesses said the attacker was seen standing outside the two-story building at least since 6:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Richard Goldman, a television screenwriter who lives across the street said he heard what sounded like a car backfiring, then two ″bloodcurdling″ screams.

″I looked out the window and I saw a guy in a yellow shirt jogging at a fair clip ... as if it was ball four and he was running to first base.″

Neighbor Kenneth Newell rushed to help Miss Schaeffer. ″I felt her pulse. I couldn’t feel any,″ he said.

The actress was pronounced dead at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center about 30 minutes later, said hospital spokeswoman Peggy Shaff.

Miss Schaeffer appeared on ″My Sister Sam″ on CBS from 1986 to 1988, playing Patti Russell, the younger sister of Miss Dawber’s character, Sam.

″Words cannot express the grief and rage that I feel,″ Miss Dawber said in a statement from New York.

Miss Schaeffer once moved into Miss Dawber’s California home so the two could develop a convincing relationship for the show.

A native of Eugene, Ore., Miss Schaeffer worked as a model in Japan in 1984, doing commercials and magazine covers. Upon her return to the United States, she took a regular role in the ABC soap opera ″One Life to Live.″

She also appeared in the Woody Allen film ″Radio Days″ and an episode of the NBC series ″Amazing Stories.″

She was most recently seen in the feature film ″Scenes From the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills″ and had just completed a co-starring role in ″One Point of View,″ an upcoming feature directed by Dyan Cannon.

Miss Schaeffer returned recently from Italy, where she had a supporting role in a TV miniseries about the hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro.

The attack was chillingly reminiscent of the one suffered by ″Raging Bull″ actress Theresa Saldana in 1982 when a deluded fan seriously wounded her with a hunting knife outside her West Hollywood home.

Similarly, former Beatle John Lennon was slain Dec. 8, 1980 by a deranged fan outside his New York apartment, and after ″Taxi Driver″ established her fame, actress Jodie Foster attracted the attention of John Hinkley Jr., who tried to assassinate President Reagan in 1981 to impress her.