Celebrities behaving badly is a trope as old as time. From rockstars and sports stars to directors and actors, everything from substance abuse to trashing hotel rooms to rampant egoism is not only expected but also kind of excused and lapped up by the press.
With that said, Twitter might rejoice when a prolific performer throws a tantrum or goes on an unhinged rant, but today we’re looking at celebrity screw-ups that are less catty and more criminal. Here are the 25 celebrities who have killed people.
25. Caitlyn Jenner
In 2015, Caitlin Jenner’s car collided with another vehicle in Malibu, California. Eyewitnesses saw her black SUV rear-end a white car, which then careened into oncoming traffic before being struck by a Hummer. The driver of the white vehicle, a lady named Kim Howe, was fatally killed in the accident, and seven other people sustained injuries from the crash. Jenner had voluntarily submitted to a blood alcohol test and was not speeding at the time.
Immediately following the crash, Jenner passed a field sobriety test. The reality star claimed that she had been avoiding the paparazzi when the collision occurred, but police were unconvinced. Jenner released the following statement in the wake of the incident: “My heartfelt and deepest sympathies go out to the family and loved ones, and to all of those who were involved or injured in this terrible accident. It is a devastating tragedy, and I cannot pretend to imagine what this family is going through at this time.”
24. Matthew Broderick
Matthew Broderick was on top of the world in 1986, having finished the hit Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and begun dating Jennifer Grey. The couple went to Ireland on vacation in 1987, but tragedy struck when the actor rented a BMW. Broderick accidentally drove the wrong way down a country lane and collided head-on with a Volvo. Both passengers in the Volvo were killed instantly, 30-year-old Anna Gallagher and her mother, 63-year-old Margaret Doherty.
Broderick suffered a fractured leg and ribs, a collapsed lung and a concussion, while Grey sustained only minor injuries. Broderick later told police: “I don’t remember even getting up in the morning. I don’t remember making my bed. What I first remember is waking up in the hospital, with a very strange feeling going on in my leg.” The actor was first charged with death by dangerous driving, which could have landed him five years in prison. However, he was instead convicted of careless driving and fined just $175.
23. Venus Williams
In 2017, tennis star Venus Williams was involved in a fatal car crash. Williams was driving in Palm Beach Garden, Florida when she rushed through an intersection and collided with another car, with reports initially showing that she didn’t have right of way. The driver of the car was seriously injured, while her husband, a 78-year-old man, died in the ICU. However, although police originally said that Williams was at fault for the accident, surveillance footage showed otherwise.
In December 2017, authorities identified a third vehicle containing an unidentified driver which had actually made a left turn in front of the tennis player. Furthermore, another surveillance camera confirmed that Williams had lawfully entered the intersection, meaning that the accident was actually caused by the third driver. Williams has since been cleared of wrongdoing.
22. Laura Bush
Laura Bush is the former First Lady and wife of George W. When Bush was only a teenager, she drove through at a stop sign and collided with another vehicle as a result. She fatally injured the driver of the vehicle, her good friend and classmate Michael Dutton Douglas, who some believed she was dating at the time.
Laura and her friend both sustained minor injuries in the crash, but Bush was not ultimately charged with Douglas’ death. Instead, a spokesman for the family stated: “It was a very tragic accident that deeply affected the families and was very painful for all involved, including the community at large.” Bush herself has publicly addressed the incident and once stated that the accident caused her to lose faith for a very, very long time.
21. Keith Moon
Keith Moon was the legendary drummer of British rock band The Who, who became known for his drug-addled behaviour both on and off-stage as well as his incredible musical prowess. In January 1970, Moon accidentally killed his friend and bodyguard Neil Boland outside a pub in Hertfordshire. Moon had been trying to escape some fellow pub-goers who had been harassing him and got behind the wheel of his car while drunk.
Moon didn’t see his friend Boland standing in the road and ended up killing him by mistake. Moon was subsequently charged for Boland’s death, as well as receiving charges for driving without a license or insurance, and drunk driving. Although the death was ruled accidental, Moon accepted all of the driving charges. Apparently, Moon was haunted by nightmares about the incident until his own death in 1978.
20. Ted Kennedy
Ted Kennedy was a US politician and one member of the infamous Kennedy dynasty. He was the brother of JFK and Robert, and served as a senator for several decades before his death in 2009. Unfortunately, Kennedy’s record wasn’t entirely blemish-free as he was once involved in a disastrous car crash. In 1969, Kennedy accidentally drove his car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick while travelling with Mary Jo Kopechne.
The politician managed to free himself from the car and swim to safety, but sadly Mary Jo was drowned in the vehicle. Unfortunately, Kennedy didn’t help himself with his actions directly after the incident. Kennedy actually fled the scene and waited a whole nine hours to report the incident. He was later charged with and pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident. He received a two-month suspended sentence for the incident, which effectively barred him from ever being able to become President of the United States.
19. James Stewart
James Stewart was one of the most famous actors of the Golden Age of Hollywood. But did you know that he was responsible for killing enemy soldiers during World War II? Part of Stewart’s appeal was the fact that he was a war veteran who served in the U.S. Air Force during WWII. Stewart participated in several bombings during WWII which resulted in the deaths of enemy soldiers. As a result, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak leaf cluster, as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Notable among his many deployments was a raid on Berlin in 1944, wherein Stewart led the 2nd Bomb Wing in an attack on the German capital and later led many missions deep into Nazi-occupied territory. Stewart returned to acting after his first stint in the military, but things didn’t go entirely to plan. His first performance was in the Christmas classic It’s A Wonderful Life, but during this time actor suffered from PTSD. Stewart later went on to star in a series of Hitchcock films, including the excellent Rear Window (1954).
18. Snoop Dogg
Some rappers are criticised for pretending to come from the streets when they’ve lived a relatively sheltered life. But that’s definitely not the case for Snoop Dogg, the US rapper who first came to prominence in the 1990s. As a teenager, Snoop had already been charged countless times for drug dealing and possession. But that was only the start of his troubles with the law. Snoop was busy recording tracks for his album Doggystyle in August 1993, when he became embroiled in the murder of a rival gang member.
Although Snoop had only been driving the car at the time, he and his bodyguard were charged with first-degree murder. Snoop’s lawyer was none other than Johnny Cochran, who later defended OJ Simpson. Eventually, both men were acquitted of the killing, but Snoop was still tied up in legal matters surrounding the case for several years after the original incident. At the same time, his successful rap career was going from strength to strength.
17. Duane ‘Dog’ Chapman
Most people wouldn’t believe that Dog the Bounty Hunter is himself a convicted criminal. After all, he spends most of his time tracking down the bad guys for a living, but he actually has a first-degree murder charge from back in the 1970s. One of Chapman’s friends shot drug dealer Jerry Oliver in 1976, after he refused to sell drugs to the person in question. Chapman was waiting outside in the car but was still convicted of murder.
The bounty hunter ended up serving 18 months of a five-year sentence at Texas State Penitentiary and his conviction means that he is barred from entering the United Kingdom. During his time in prison, Chapman’s first wife LaFonda filed for divorce and married Chapman’s best friend instead. The future bounty hunter did field work and also acted as the prison warden’s barber!
16. O.J. Simpson
Everybody who’s anybody knows about the ‘trial of the century’. Most people believe that ex-football player O.J. Simpson got away with the double murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpsons and her lover Ron Goldman after defence lawyer Johnnie Cochrane decided to turn the case into a race issue. All of the tell-tale signs were there: blood evidence, Simpson’s flight from the crime scene and his past history of domestic violence and stalking. And yet somehow, the jury acquitted the ex-football star.
However, this wasn’t the end of Simpson’s legal woes. In civil court, a 1997 hearing awarded a $33.5 million judgment against him for the victims’ wrongful deaths. And then in 2007, Simpson was arrested in Las Vegas and charged with armed robbery and kidnapping. He was sentenced to 33 years imprisonment with a minimum of nine years without parole. Simpson was released on October 1st, 2017.
15. Oscar Pistorius
Oscar Pistorius is another famous sportsman who was embroiled in a murder case. Pistorius’ case rocked the world when it was revealed that the ‘Bladerunner’ had been charged with the murder of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp. Steenkamp was shot four times in a gruesome killing that Pistorius claimed was an accidental death. Pistorius had believed that he was killing an intruder through a bathroom door, but a courtroom found his defence inexcusable and he was charged with culpable homicide.
He received five years in jail, plus a three-year suspended sentence for a previous incident involving a firearm which was accidentally discharged in a restaurant. Pistorius only served one-sixth of his jail term before being released under house arrest for the remainder of the sentence. In 2014, prosecutors serving on the case stated that Pistorius’s sentence was “shockingly light, inappropriate and would not have been imposed by any reasonable court.”
14. Oliver Stone
Director Oliver Stone has created a string of hugely successful war movies. And part of the reason behind his interest in the subject matter is that Stone served as a soldier during the Vietnam War. He enlisted in the US Army in 1967 and requested combat duty in Vietnam, serving with 2nd Platoon, B Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Infantry Division from September 1967 until April 1968. Stone was wounded several times during active service but was also responsible for the deaths of many enemy soldiers.
By the time Stone’s tour of duty had come to an end, his military valour was rewarded several times over. Stone received the Bronze Star with V Device for VALOR for heroism. He also received the following military honours: Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Air Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Combat Infantryman Badge. Wow!
13. Rebecca Gayheart
Rebecca Gayheart is best known as the ‘Noxzema girl’, as well as being married to Eric Dane of Grey’s Anatomy. However, Gayheart has also struggled with the law in the past and was once involved in an incident which resulted in the death of a 9-year-old boy. Gayheart had been driving a car owned by her From Dusk Till Dawn 3 co-star Marco Leonardi when she struck the boy, named Jorge Cruz, Jr., as he was walking across the street in Los Angeles.
Sadly Cruz died from his injuries the very next day. Gayheart paid the family $10,000 in funeral expenses and was even given permission to attend the service by the Cruz family. Ultimately she chose not to do this. In 2001, Gayheart did make a public statement regarding the incident: “The pain of this tragedy will live with me forever. Despite the allegations in the lawsuit, the facts will establish that this was a most unfortunate accident.” She later pleaded no contest to vehicular manslaughter.
12. Don King
Boxing promoter Don King is actually responsible for the deaths of two different individuals, with the first incident occurring in 1954. King spotted a man trying to burgle one of his gambling establishments and promptly shot the man in the back. This was ruled as a justifiable homicide since King was acting in self-defence. Then in 1967, over thirteen years later, King was convicted of non-negligent manslaughter.
It was revealed that he had stomped one of his employees to death after he found out that they owed him $600. King served three years and eleven months in prison for the crime. A few years later in 1983, Ohio Governor James A. Rhodes pardoned King for the crime after some of his celebrity friends wrote letters in support of the boxing promoter.
11. William S. Burroughs
William S. Burroughs was a distinguished novelist best known for his work during the Beat era. However, the author of ‘Naked Lunch’ is also a convicted killer, having been found guilty of shooting and killing his wife Joan Vollmer in 1951. Amazingly, he wasn’t charged with murder because of the strange circumstances surrounding her death. Both William and Joan had been drinking heavily and both had a history of drug addiction. One night, William got up from a table and said to Joan “It’s time for our William Tell act.”
Neither of them had practised the stunt before, but Joan obliged by balancing a highball glass on top of her head. Burroughs ended up killing her almost instantly with a shot to the head. Burroughs spent a grand total of 13 days in jail before his brother travelled to Mexico City and bribed some officials to ensure William’s release. He was out on bail before the trial, which eventually ruled that the author was guilty of culpable homicide.
10. Sid Vicious
Sid Vicious was the troubled bassist for the Sex Pistols, best known for his volatile relationship with Nancy Spungen. Sadly, the pairing led to Nancy’s death in 1978. Vicious awoke from a drugged-up stupor to find Nancy with a stab wound to her chest. He later admitted that he had stabbed her himself and was promptly charged with murder. But Vicious never stood trial for the attack because he died of a drug overdose while out on bail.
Before his death, Vicious had attempted to kill himself ten days after Spungen was found dead. He had slit his wrists and jumped out of a window shouting “I want to be with my Nancy”. He was also hospitalised at Bellevue before dying of a heroin overdose. A note was allegedly found on his body which seemed to point towards a suicide pact: “We had a death pact, and I have to keep my half of the bargain. Please bury me next to my baby. Bury me in my leather jacket, jeans and motorcycle boots. Goodbye.” This was certainly a messed-up ending to a very messed-up relationship.
9. Vince Neil
Vince Neil is the frontman of Motley Crue. In recent years, plenty of unsavoury stories have come out about the glam rock band that don’t exactly paint them in a positive light. But did you know that Neil has actually served time for killing someone in a drunk driving accident? In 1984, Neil found himself at the centre of controversy when he crashed into another car while under the influence of alcohol. The incident killed his passenger, Nicholas ‘Razzle’ Dingley.
Two individuals who were riding in the other car were seriously brain injured, and police found that Neil’s blood alcohol level was .17 at the time of the accident. Despite the severity of his crime, the rocker spent only 15 days in jail and was ordered to pay $2.6 million in damages to the families of his victims. The incident clearly didn’t change Neil’s ways, he has been charged with battery and assault several times since the car crash.
8. Phil Spector
Music producer Phil Spector was charged second-degree murder in 2009. An actress named Lana Clarkson was found dead from a gunshot wound in Phil Spector’s home back in 2003. Spector claimed in an interview that her death was an ‘accidental suicide’ and that Lana had ‘kissed the gun’. But law enforcement didn’t take the same view. Spector was arrested and charged with Clarkson’s murder. After a lengthy court case, Spector was found guilty of murder in 2009 and sentenced to 18 years or life imprisonment.
During an emergency call made by Spector’s driver, Adriano de Souza, immediately following the incident, Spector can be heard saying “I think I’ve killed someone”. De Souza also testified that he had seen Spector coming out of the back door of the house with a gun in his hand. Spector was released on bail before his trial and his first trial was labelled as a mistrial due to a hung jury.
7. Johnny Lewis
Most people know Johnny Lewis for his appearance in Sons of Anarchy. But the family of 81-year-old Catherine Davis will forever remember Lewis for his cold-blooded murder of their beloved relative. In 2012, Davis entered the home of Davis and went on a killing spree. The actor ransacked her house before killing Davis and her cat. Eyewitnesses saw Lewis jump over a fence, assault one of Davis’ neighbours and then return to the Davis house.
Eventually he killed himself after jumping from a roof. Although Lewis had a history of drug abuse, the toxicology report came back negative and his own death was ruled accidental. Lewis had previously suffered head injuries after a motorcycle accident but refused to take an MRI, despite the fact that his behaviour had become steadily more erratic. Kurt Sutter, the creator of Sons of Anarchy, later stated: “It was a tragic end for an extremely talented guy, who unfortunately had lost his way.”
6. John Landis
John Landis is responsible for a whole host of classic 80s films. He’s directed hit movies such as The Blues Brothers, Trading Places and Animal House. But Landis has not been without legal troubles during his filmmaking career. On the set of his movie The Twilight Zone, an accident occurred which killed actor Vic Morrow and two children who were playing extras in the film.
The three victims died after an incident involving an out-of-control helicopter which crash-landed on top of the trio. Landis and four others were subsequently charged with involuntary manslaughter. After a stressful trial proceeding, Landis was acquitted of the charge, but he ended up paying $2 million to each of the families of the two children. The director was also reprimanded for his circumvention of California child labour laws in hiring the two young children.
5. Jayson Williams
Jayson Williams is a former NBA star who played for the New Jersey Nets. However, aside from his basketball career, Williams is best known for a 2010 incident which saw the athlete pleading guilty to the accidental death of his limousine driver Costas “Gus” Christofi. Gus was accidentally killed on Williams’ New Jersey estate during a tour of the house with some other individuals. Witnesses noted that Williams had been messing around with a firearm when the gun went off and killed the driver.
Williams pleaded guilty to aggravated assault. After some lengthy legal wrangling, the basketball player was eventually charged and sentenced to five years in prison with parole after 18 months. The player was eventually released in April 2012 after being moved to Riker’s Island to serve an additional year of a DWI charge.
4. Fatty Arbuckle
This is a particularly nasty case of a Hollywood actor getting away with something gruesome. Fatty Arbuckle was a huge star when he found himself charged with the manslaughter of Virginia Rappe. Rappe had been found in Arbuckle’s hotel room having been raped by the film star before dying due to her injuries. Rappe had been drinking bootleg alcohol which irritated her chronic cystitis. On top of these health concerns, Arbuckle’s huge body weight meant that his body distressed Rappe’s organs during the sexual assault and eventually killed her.
Rappe died of a ruptured bladder, but her killer was never really brought to any kind of legal justice. Arbuckle went through two very public mistrials before being cleared of all charges in a third trial. By then the damage to his film career had been done. He was shunned from the movie industry for over a decade.
3. Christian Brando
Christian Brando was the troubled son of veteran actor Marlon. In May 1990, Brando pleaded guilty to manslaughter after being charged with the death of Dag Drollet. Drollet was the boyfriend of his half-sister Cheyenne, and Brando always maintained that the death had been accidental. His story was made less believable by the fact that the actor admitted he had been confronting Drollet about rumours concerning Drollet’s domestic violence towards Cheyenne.
At first, Brando was charged with the serious crime of first-degree murder, and he ended up serving five years of a ten-year sentence for the killing. Cheyenne gave birth to Drollet’s son Tuki Brando before hanging herself in 1995. This wasn’t the end of Brando’s involvement with the law either. He was later implicated in the murder of his wife Bonnie Lee Bakley and later received a spousal abuse conviction. He eventually died of pneumonia in 2008 at the age of 49.
2. Rae Carruth
Rae Carruth used to be known for his skills on the football field. But in 1999 he instead disgraced the headlines due to the murder of his pregnant partner Cherica Adams. Apparently, Carruth was annoyed that Adams refused to abort the baby, and she was killed at eight months pregnant by a mystery assassin. In fact, the killer turned out to be Carruth’s friend Van Brett Watkins. Adams tragically died a month later due to her injuries after lapsing into a coma.
The former sports star was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, shooting into an occupied vehicle and using an instrument to destroy an unborn child. He received 18 to 24 years in prison for his part in the killing. Carruth was found not guilty of first-degree murder and was thus spared the death penalty. He later wrote a public apology to Adams’ mother. Amazingly, Carruth’s son survived the attack but suffered permanent brain damage and cerebral palsy due to being without oxygen for over 70 minutes.
1. Salman Khan
Salman Khan was a hugely successful Bollywood actor, but in 2002, he was arrested for rash and negligent driving after running his car into a bakery in Mumbai. One person had been sleeping on the pavement outside and passed away from their injuries, while three other victims were injured in the accident. Khan was initially charged with culpable homicide but those charges were soon dropped. However, in 2013 he was again charged with culpable homicide and the star promptly pleaded not guilty.
However, in 2015 the actor was found guilty on all charges. The jury found that he had been under the influence of alcohol while driving and he was sentenced to five years in prison. However, that’s not the end of the tale – one of the prime witnesses in the case was kidnapped and murdered, leaving Khan to be acquitted on all charges due to lack of evidence. This is one murky court case that is still on-going in the Indian courts.