A fair number of celebrities, whether actors, athletes, or socialites, have met strange and tragic ends over the years. While the majority of these deaths have been resolved through the court system, many of the more bizarre cases have remained unsolved – making them perfect fodder for gossip magazines, investigative news shows, and public speculation. The mystery and intrigue around unsolved celebrity deaths only seems to grow with the passage of time; yet, in most instances, investigators are no closer to solving these cases than they were to begin with. Here are 10 of the most infamous unsolved celebrity deaths of all time.
9. Jack Nance, Actor
Jack Nance was an actor best known for his work with director David Lynch. He played the main character in the 1977 cult movie Eraserhead (he’s the guy on the famous poster with the crazy hair.) Jack Nance also starred in other David Lynch movies such as Dune (1984) and Blue Velvet (1986) , as well as films such as Barfly (1987) and Colors (1988). In 1996, Nance died under circumstances worthy of a Lynch film.
On December 29, 1996, Nance showed up at lunch with friends in South Pasadena, California with bruises on his face. By all accounts, Nance was nonchalant about the injuries, telling his dining companions that a young homeless man had beaten him outside a Winchell’s Donuts location the previous night. After lunch, Nance headed home, remarking to his friends that he felt a headache coming on. The next day, the actor suffered a subdural hematoma due to head trauma, resulting in his death on December 30, 1996. A lengthy police investigation failed to find evidence of the alleged fight with a homeless man or anyone else for that matter, and his death remains an open investigation.
8. Ronni Chasen, Publicist
Ronni Chasen was a popular and successful publicist in Hollywood, representing A-list actors such as Michael Douglas, as well as composers such as Hans Zimmer. By all accounts, Chasen lived a clean and respectful life and had never had any trouble with the law. So it was especially shocking on November 16, 2010 when Chasen was gunned down in Beverly Hills as she was driving home from the Hollywood premiere of the film Burlesque.
Police investigated, but found no eye witnesses, no evidence, and no motive for the crime, which is believed to have been targeted. Nobody came forward with any information about the shooting. To this day, nobody knows who killed Ronni Chasen or what the motivation was for her murder and the case remains open. Making the situation even more bizarre, Chasen’s bank accounts had no money in them at the time of her death. She emptied them in the days before the shooting that killed her and nobody seems to know why.
7. Chris Trickle, NASCAR Driver
Chris Trickle was a popular up-and-coming NASCAR driver when the then 24-year-old died on March 25, 1998. What made his death strange was that Trickle died more than a year after he was shot outside of a Las Vegas casino on February 9, 1997. The shooter was never identified, and a bizarre quirk in Nevada law at that time meant that nobody could be prosecuted for Trickle’s murder, since his death occurred more than a year and a day after the shooting. While this weird law has since been changed, no suspects have ever been identified, and the case involving who shot Chris Trickle (and why) is now labeled “cold” by Las Vegas police.
6. Jill Dando, TV Journalist
British television journalist Jill Dando was hugely popular in her native England. She worked as a news reporter and presenter on the BBC for 14 years. The pretty Jill Dando was named “BBC Personality of the Year” in 1997 and her popularity made her murder on April 26, 1999 both shocking and sensational for the British public. While leaving the home of her fiancé, Dando was killed by a single gunshot to the back of her head, or “execution style” as the British police claimed. This set off what became known as “Operation Oxborough,” the biggest murder inquiry and largest criminal investigation in the United Kingdom since the hunt for Jack the Ripper.
Yet despite the involvement of both Scotland Yard and Interpol, the murder of Jill Dando has never been solved. A local man named Barry George was convicted and jailed for the murder, but was later acquitted on appeal and released. To date, the murder investigation remains open, with the most recent theory being that Jill Dando was killed by a Yugoslavian terrorist group she had been investigating. Ironically, at the time of her death, Dando was hosting the long running BBC television program Crimewatch, which reconstructs major unsolved crimes and solicits information from the public to help solve the cases.
5. Mary Meyer, Socialite
Mary Meyer was a socialite who moved in powerful circles within Washington, D.C. in the early 1960s. She was married to CIA executive Cord Meyer and was reported to be a mistress of then U.S. President John F. Kennedy. On October 12, 1964, nearly a year after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Mary Meyer was shot to death while walking along a pathway by the Ohio Canal in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. A mechanic working on a car nearby reported hearing two gun shots and a woman scream, and also saw a man in a dark jacket fleeing the scene. The murder of Mary Meyer was never solved; however, investigators tried to link her murder to John F. Kennedy’s assassination and there have been reports she was killed for “knowing too much.” Interestingly, her husband, CIA official Cord Meyer, refused to cooperate with the investigation after giving an initial statement to police.
4. Christa Helm, Actress
She wasn’t a huge star, but Christa Helm was a beautiful actress who had parts on 1970s TV shows such as Wonder Woman and Starsky and Hutch. At the time of her death in 1977, she was known more for her relationships with A-list celebrities. Helm was seen publicly on the arms of notorious ladies’ men such as Warren Beatty, Mick Jagger, and Joe Namath, and even dated the Shah of Iran for a period of time. Helm also kept a detailed “sex diary” according to her friends, and she used to joke about using the diary to blackmail some of her famous lovers. Sadly, it all caught up to her in the summer of 1977 when she was stabbed to death on a dark street in West Hollywood. Police discovered the diary at her home after the death and suspected she was killed for what she knew, but the killer has never been identified.
3. Natalie Wood, Actress
Natalie Wood’s death has been tabloid fodder since it occurred in 1981. While her death has been ruled an “accidental drowning” at various points, the case has also been reopened by police several times over the years, most recently in 2014, with nobody really sure how she died. What is known is that Natalie Wood drowned while on a weekend boat trip in California with her then husband, actor Robert Wagner, and actor Christopher Walken, whom Wood was filming a movie with at the time. Exactly how Wood ended up in the water and drowned in the early hours of November 29, 1981 is unknown, as neither Wagner or Walken admit seeing the actress enter the water.
Authorities discovered Natalie Wood’s body at 8 a.m. on November 29, 1981 about a mile away from the boat, and a small inflatable dinghy beached nearby. According to Wagner and Walken, both men had been very intoxicated when they went to bed after arguing intensely over Wagner’s accusations that Walken was having an affair with Wood. The autopsy revealed that Wood had bruises on her body and arms, as well as cuts on her left cheek that led investigators to speculate she my have been murdered by her jealous husband and her body then placed in the water to make it look like a drowning. While the case has been investigated heavily over the years, it remains open.
2. Bob Crane, Actor
Bob Crane was a likable American actor best known for his starring role in the 1960s television show Hogan’s Heroes, as well as starring in a few Disney movies during the 1970s such as Superdad. Sadly, the actor was found bludgeoned to death at the seedy Winfield Place Apartments in Scottsdale, Arizona, on June 29, 1978. Police suspect the weapon used to kill Crane was a camera tripod. The popular actor had been heavily involved in the underground sex scene and videotaped his numerous sexcapades with the help of his friend John Henry Carpenter, an audio-visual expert.
While hundreds of video tapes of Bob Crane having sex with women were discovered after his death, the killer was never identified. Police suspected that Carpenter was the murderer but could never prove it. Carpenter died of natural causes in 1998 while still a free man – 20 years after Bob Crane’s murder, which still remains unsolved.
1. Jimmy Hoffa, Union Leader
The most famous unsolved murder of all time has to be former head of the Teamsters Union Jimmy Hoffa. What makes Hoffa’s death so strange and mysterious is the fact that his body has never been found, and no killer or motive has ever been identified either. The labor union president, who was known to have ties with organized crime, simply disappeared in 1975. Hoffa was last seen in the parking lot of a restaurant in Bloomfield Township, Michigan in 1975 while waiting to meet with a local union leader from New Jersey to settle a feud. The union leader never showed and Hoffa’s car was found in the restaurant parking lot the next day, clean and immaculate.
No evidence was found in Hoffa’s car, and no clues have ever been unearthed as to what happened to the well-known union leader. Hoffa was declared legally dead in 1982, though his body has never been recovered. Books, movies, and even songs have been written about his disappearance, which has been called one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th Century.