Updated: Nov 15
Rebecca Shaeffer, the 21-year-old from Oregon was in My Sister Sam tv series that ended in 1988 after two seasons, but the work kept coming. Schaeffer co-starred in the racy big-screen farce Scenes From the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills, which hit theaters in June 1989. She had wrapped the TV movie Voyage of Terror: The Achille Lauro Affair, about the real-life 1985 hijacking of a cruise liner. She was in The End of Innocence. She was even said to be in the running for the lead in an upcoming romantic comedy called Pretty Woman.
And on the morning of July 18, 1989 was waiting for a delivery that, if all went well, could change her life.
Schaeffer was scheduled to audition later that day for the then very coveted role of Mary in The Godfather Part III and she was expecting the script to be dropped off at her West Hollywood apartment any minute.
When the bell rang at 10:15 a.m., Schaeffer went to answer the door and was greeted by by 19-year-old Robert John Bardo.
Bardo showed her the letter she had sent him and an autographed photo. He told her he was her biggest fan. She politely told him she had an interview to get ready for. "Please take care," and shook his hand.
Bardo had fallen in love with the actress in 1986 and began sending tokens of his affection that included letters, gifts, and chocolates. He even drove from his home in Tuscan Arizona to LA to see her after getting a single letter reply from her. He never made it inside the studio and eventually went home.
Bardo's opinion of Schaeffer changed after he watched her in a love scene in Scenes From the Class Struggle. He apparently felt betrayed. With his gun and hollow-point bullets in tow, he boarded a bus to L.A.
He had been obsessed with the actress for three years and had paid a private investigator $300 to find out where she lived. The P.I. got her address from DMV records. Bardo got his older brother, Edward, to buy him a gun, his own attempt unsuccessful after he told the gun store owner about his history of mental illness.
It was a .357 Magnum.
After eating at a nearby diner, he returned. In Bardo's Words: "She said: 'You came to my door again, It was like I was bothering her again. Hurry up, I don't have much time.' I thought that was a very callous thing to say to a fan."
He then told her, "I forgot to give you something," and shot her with the gun he had with him in a shopping bag. Schaeffer was pronounced dead at a Medical Center less than a mile away.
It wasn't until after Schaeffer's murder that stalking in and of itself was even classified as a crime.
In 1990, California became the first state to pass an anti-stalking law— in addition to Schaeffer, four women had been killed in Orange County the previous year despite having restraining orders in place against men who had been harassing them—and eventually the rest of the country followed suit.
In 1996, Congress passed an anti-stalking law as part of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) which was passed in 1994 which creates tools to combat violence against women. It provide protection to women who have suffered violent abuses. and supports comprehensive, cost-effective responses to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking.
The Screen Actors Guild also got involved in lobbying the state to strengthen privacy protections, and the state subsequently restricted the accessibility of personal information, such as a home address, from the DMV. (According to a state assemblyman, the California Department of Motor Vehicles received 16 million address inquiries in 1988.) Congress passed the Driver's Privacy Protection Act in 1994, which required all states to do the same.
Stalking is defined as a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety or the safety of others or suffer substantial emotional distress.
VAWA - Under this law it is a federal felony to cross state lines to stalk or harass an individual if the conduct causes fear of serious bodily injury or death to the stalking victim or to the victim's immediate family members. It is a federal felony to stalk or harass on military or U.S. territorial lands, including Indian country . It is also a federal crime to cross state lines or enter or leave Indian country in violation of a qualifying Protection Order.
Cyber Stalking or Interstate Stalking
It is a federal crime, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, to transmit any communication containing a threat to injure the person of another.
What is considered cyberstalking?
Cyberstalking involves using the internet, cell phone, and/or any other electronic communication device to stalk another person.
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