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Rock Star Bobby Fuller’s Death Is Still a Mystery to Family

July 17, 1986 GMT

EL PASO, Texas (AP) _ Bobby Fuller had wowed them with his hit song, ″I Fought the Law.″ His career was about to take off and there was nowhere to go but up.

Instead, Fuller died 20 years ago Friday at the age of 23 while sniffing gasoline fumes to get high. His family says it still regards the death as mysterious.

He was found July 18, 1966, in a car near the Los Angeles apartment he shared with his brother, Randy. A can of gasoline and a rubber hose were found on the floorboard next to his body and police thought he had been getting high on fumes and had overdosed.

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His death certificate said Fuller died of asphyxia due to inhalation of gasoline, but his brother thinks he was murdered because of possible dealings with the underworld.

″My brother couldn’t stand the smell of gasoline,″ said Randy Fuller, who played bass in his brother’s band, the Bobby Fuller Four, and lives in Colton, Calif. ″It was poured on him. What they were going to do was burn him. Maybe they were interrupted by my mother.″

Lorraine Fuller, 76, was staying with her two sons on one of her many visits from El Paso. She was the first to see Bobby in the front seat of the family Oldsmobile.

″I found him in the car, stretched out on the seat. He looked like someone had beaten him a little bit,″ she said.

She and Randy said Bobby drank only moderately and did not use drugs.

″One time some of us were getting high on gasoline and Bobby saw us,″ Randy said. ″He said, ’Don’t do that; that’s got lead and it’ll kill you.‴

Robert Fuller was born Oct. 22, 1942, in Goose Creek, Texas, just outside Houston. Randall Fuller was born 15 months after Bobby and the family moved to Salt Lake City.

Fuller loved music. He started piano lessons when he was 5 and his father, Lawson, bought him his first set of drums when he was about 13. ″He loved Buddy Holly. That was his first idol,″ Mrs. Fuller said.

In 1956, the Fullers moved to El Paso and the boys played in the school band, Bobby on drums and Randy on trombone. He joined a band called the Royal Lancers in 1959. He later switched from drums to guitar and formed several bands.

″I don’t know if it was fame he was after,″ said Mrs. Fuller. ″He just wanted to play his music.″

But while Fuller was good with a melody, he needed help with lyrics. He got that from Mary Stone, mother of the band’s former manager, Rick Stone. The collaboration produced Fuller’s first single in 1961, ″You’re in Love.″

″I Fought the Law,″ written by Sonny Curtis, a former member of the Crickets, became Fuller’s first big rock ‘n’ roll hit.

In 1964, Fuller was in Los Angeles with Randy on bass, Jim Reese on guitar and Dwayne Quirico, who preceded Dalton Powell, on drums as the Bobby Fuller Four. Bob Keane of Del Fi Records signed them on and put out their first LP, ″King of the Wheels.″

Fuller wrote the title song of the album, which also included a new version of ″I Fought the Law.″ He also wrote ″Let Her Dance,″ which got the group on the regional charts and on such TV shows as ″Hullabaloo″ and ″Shindig.″

By 1966, ″I Fought the Law″ had made it to No. 4. After a brief engagement in San Francisco, the group returned to Los Angeles for a one-week vacation.

On the night of July 17, Bobby Fuller was with his mother, Randy and some of their friends at the Los Angeles apartment. He drank a few beers, watched television and played his guitar. Then he left.

″Probably to get a bite to eat - he often did that,″ his mother said.

The next morning Fuller failed to show up at the recording studio. Mrs. Fuller went out to get the mail and saw the Oldsmobile. Fuller was buried in a Hollywood cemetery that week.