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Obsessed Fan Convicted in Slaying of Actress Rebecca Schaeffer

October 30, 1991

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Obsessed fan Robert Bardo was convicted Tuesday of first degree murder and the special circumstance of lying in wait in the 1989 slaying of ″My Sister Sam″ actress Rebecca Schaeffer.

Bardo had stalked Schaeffer for about two years, hired a detective to get her address, repeatedly sent her letters and got his brother to buy him a gun before he killed her when she answered the bell at her front door, according to trial testimony.

Superior Court Judge Dino Fulgoni, who heard the case without a jury, rejected the defense argument that Bardo was too mentally ill to premeditate murder.

The judge scheduled sentencing for Nov. 22. The special circumstance conviction carries a mandatory life sentence without parole.

As Bardo was led out of the courtroom, Miss Schaeffer’s mother, Danna Schaeffer, raced up to the railing and shouted: ″Have a nice life. Have a good time in jail 3/8″

″Rebecca is never going to come back,″ Mrs. Schaeffer said. ″Given that, I’m satisfied that justice is going to be served.″ She then burst into tears.

The judge said the evidence showed the defendant planned the killing for a long time and lay in wait for Miss Schaeffer as she answered the door at her apartment.

Bardo’s lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Stephen Galindo, argued his client was guilty of nothing more than second-degree murder because he was too mentally ill to have premeditated Miss Schaeffer’s killing.

″Rebecca Schaeffer is a victim in the true sense of the word,″ Galindo said. But, he added, ″Robert Bardo is also a victim - a victim of parental neglect and a mental health system which failed to provide the treatment he needed.″

Deputy District Attorney Marcia Clark said Bardo’s true motivation was to gain fame as a celebrity killer.

″A normal person does not stalk and murder an actress,″ Clark said. ″But this was less than extreme psychosis,″ she said.

She attacked the testimony of a psychiatrist who concluded that Bardo had severe mental illness and cited letters written by Bardo that showed a growing hatred for the actress and a plan to kill her.

Miss Schaeffer, 21, a rising star with a co-starring role in the TV show ″My Sister Sam,″ was shot to death on July 18, 1989.

The day after the shooting, Bardo, 21, was arrested as he ran on a freeway ramp in his hometown of Tucson, Ariz.

Before trial began, the prosecution agreed not to seek the death penalty and Bardo agreed to waive trial by jury.

Dr. Park Elliott Dietz, a psychiatrist who has studied celebrity assailants, said Bardo told him during interviews about the influence of the U2 song ″Exit″ from ″The Joshua Tree″ album.

The song was played in court and Bardo, who had sat glum and motionless through most of the trial, suddenly sprang to life. He grinned, bobbed up and down to the music, pounded his knee as if it was a drum and mouthed words to the song, including references to a gun.

Dietz said he concluded Bardo was ″a very sick young man″ and had been schizophrenic since childhood. He said Bardo’s mother and brother also were schizophrenic and called the family ″pathologically dysfunctional.″

Dietz, who worked on the case of John Hinckley, who shot President Reagan, said he considered Bardo far more disturbed than Hinckley. He also said Bardo tried to emulate Mark David Chapman, the assassin of John Lennon, and visited the New York site of Lennon’s killing.

The doctor concluded that although Bardo was mentally ill, he wasn’t legally insane under California law.

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