|“||I have an obsession with the unattainable. I have to eliminate what I cannot attain.||”|
Robert John Bardo is an American assassin and stalker who murdered American actress Rebecca Schaeffer.
Born January 2, 1970, to a Japanese mother and an alcoholic U.S. Air Force noncommissioned officer, Bardo was the youngest of seven children. Bardo and his family grew up in a classic military fashion, moving frequently until the family finally settled in Tucson, Arizona, when he was thirteen. Bardo was abused by at least one of his siblings constantly. He was temporarily placed in a foster home after he threatened suicide and institutionalized when he was fifteen. He was diagnosed as severely emotionally handicapped and his family was deemed pathological and dysfunctional. After he was released, he soon dropped out of high school. Despite having earned straight A's, the only job he could get as a dropout was a janitor at Jack in the Box. Bardo became fixated by child peace activist Samantha Smith, but these fixations disappeared when Smith was killed in a plane crash in 1985. Sometime in 1986, his attention was caught again, this time by young actress Rebecca Schaeffer, who had modeled and appeared on the soap opera One Life to Live, but her real break came as Pam Dawber's younger sister on the TV sitcom My Sister Sam. Bardo became obsessed with her in 1986. Although some other actresses caught his attention, Schaeffer was his primary interest. He sent fan-mail, but that was intercepted and discarded by her agents and handlers. Bardo went to Los Angeles and, holding a teddy bear and a letter and tried to get onto the Warner Bros. studio lot to find Schaeffer. He made two attempts but was kicked out by security. In 1988, Schaeffer starred in the movie Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverely Hills. One scene featured Schaeffer having a love scene that enraged Bardo and made him believe the scene took away Schaeffer's "morality".
Murder of Rebecca Schaeffer, Arrest, and Incarceration
Inspired by a March 15, 1982 attempt on the life of actress Theresa Saldana by then-46-year-old drifter Arthur Jackson, Bardo hired a private detective, who obtained Scaheffer's home address from the Department of Motor Vehicles for $4. Bardo got one of his older brothers to purchase a handgun and hollow-point bullets. On July 18, 1989, Bardo went to Schaeffer's home with a paper bag concealing his gun and a copy of J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye; at the time, she had an appointment with Francis Ford Coppola to discuss a possible role in the film The Godfather, Part III. When Schaeffer answered the door, Bardo drew his handgun from the paper and shot Schaeffer once in the chest, then fled to Tucson. Schaeffer died in the hospital thirty minutes later. Sometime prior to Bardo's murder of Schaeffer, one of his sisters was sent a letter by him, which stated his obsession of the actress. When news broke of Schaeffer's murder, she told L.A.P.D. about her brother's obsession. The day after the shooting, Bardo was arrested by Tuscon police and, after being tried, was eventually found guilty of first-degree murder in October 1991 and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. In July 2007, Bardo was stabbed eleven times at the prison yard of the Mule Creek State Prison by another inmate, but survived. Schaeffer's murder, as well as the aforementioned attempted murder of Saldana, prompted then-Governor of California George Deukmejian to pass a law that forbade the Department of Motor Vehicles to disclose addresses and also inspired the L.A.P.D. to develop the first Threat Management Unit. The entire U.S. as well as Canada started passing more anti-stalking laws to prevent similar incidents.
Since Bardo only killed one victim, the term "M.O." is somewhat misused. When he killed Rebecca Schaeffer, he shot her once in the chest at point-blank range with a .357 Ruger GP100 loaded with hollow-point bullets, he hid in a brown paper bag. Prior to the murder, Bardo stalked her by attempting to visit her at the recording studio she was at and also getting her home address from a detective agency.
- July 18, 1989: Rebecca Schaeffer, 21 (stalked for three years; fatally shot once in the chest)
- Bardo isn't the only assassin who had a copy of The Catcher in the Rye with him at the time he murdered his victim. Mark David Chapman had a copy with him at the time of his attack on John Lennon and had even written a note inside the book, in which he called himself the name of the book's protagonist Holden Caulfield. John Hinckley, Jr.'s attack on Ronald Reagan was also associated with the book.
On Criminal Minds
- Season One
- "Somebody's Watching" - Bardo was mentioned by Reid (who incorrectly referred to him as "John Robert Bardo") as an example of stalkers who kill the targets of the obsession. He also appears to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsub, Maggie Lowe - Both are erotomanic assassins and stalkers who were fixated on an actress and later attempted to kill them with a revolver at their houses (though only Bardo succeeded).
- Season Thirteen
- "False Flag" - Bardo was mentioned again as an example of murderers who read J.D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye and claimed to have been influenced by it.