Robert John Bardo is an American convicted murderer presently imprisoned in Avenal State Prison in California, USA. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in October 1991 for killing American actress and model Rebecca Schaeffer after stalking her for three years. A native of Arizona, Bardo grew up in a mixed-race family. His father served in the US Air Force as a non-commissioned officer. He had a turbulent childhood. The youngest of seven children, he suffered abuse at the hands of his siblings. The situation got so bad that he threatened to kill himself, after which he was put in foster care. There were cases of mental illness in his family, and the doctors deduced that he had bipolar disorder. When he was 15 years old, he was put in a mental institution for treatment of emotional problems. After leaving school in the ninth grade, he got a job as a janitor. In the months leading up to Schaeffer’s death, Bardo was apprehended by the police three times. Before stalking the model-actress, he obsessed over and stalked child peace activist Samantha Smith until her death in a plane crash.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on January 2, 1970, in Tucson, Arizona, USA, Bardo was the youngest of seven children of a Japanese mother and an American father. The family moved around a lot due to his father’s service as a non-commissioned officer in the US Air Force. At some point, they made Tucson, Arizona, their permanent home. One of his brothers is named Edward.
Bardo’s childhood was troubled. His siblings were abusive to him. He was enrolled in foster care after he revealed that he was close to committing suicide. There were cases of mental illness in Bardo’s family and the doctors’ diagnosed him with bipolar disorder.
He was placed in an institution for emotional problems at the age of 15. When he was in the ninth grade, he left Pueblo Magnet High School and was subsequently hired as a janitor at Jack in the Box.
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In the year and a half before the killing of Schaeffer, he was apprehended by the police three different times for crimes like domestic violence and disorderly conduct. According to his neighbours, Bardo demonstrated strange and threatening behaviour towards them.
Before becoming obsessed with the model-actress, Bardo had developed a similar unhealthy interest towards child peace activist Samantha Smith. That lasted until her death in a plane crash in August 1985.
Bardo sent several letters to Schaeffer before he tried to get into the set of the CBS television series ‘My Sister Sam’, in which Schaeffer was portraying Patricia "Patti" Russell, one of the protagonists of the show.
He employed a detective agency to find her home address, which they did by tracking it through the California Department of Motor Vehicles records.
On July 18, 1989, Bardo broke into Schaeffer’s apartment and accosted her for her appearance in a sex scene in the film ‘Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills’ (1989). He was angry and believed that she had "lost her innocence" and turned into "another Hollywood whore". He informed her that he was a big fan before he was convinced to leave by Schaeffer.
After leaving Schaeffer’s apartment, he went to a diner for breakfast. However, he came back to the apartment about an hour later and pushed the doorbell. The moment she opened the door, Bardo shot her in the chest, killing her.
Arrest, Trial & Conviction
The authorities caught Bardo in Tucson, Arizona, after finding him walking in traffic purposelessly. Marcia Clark, who later was appointed the lead prosecutor in the O. J. Simpson murder trial, served as the lead prosecutor on his case.
He was kept in a Sensitive Needs Unit (SNU) where gang members, notorious prisoners, and those convicted of sex crimes were also housed.
At one point during the trial, he stated that he was inspired by the U2 song ‘Exit’ to commit the murder. This prompted the song to be played in the courtroom as evidence, and Bardo was observed lip-syncing to it.
His lawyers accepted that Bardo had killed Schaeffer but claimed that he did so because of his mental illness. According to psychiatrist Park Dietz, who gave testimony for the defence in the court, Bardo demonstrated schizophrenic behaviour, and he killed Schaeffer because of his illness.
Bardo was convicted of first-degree murder and given a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
He had a paperback copy of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ when he killed Schaeffer. During his escape from the spot of the crime, he discarded the book. He repeatedly said that this was coincidental and that he was not trying to mirror Mark David Chapman, who also had a copy of the book with him when he murdered John Lennon in December 1980.
Following the murder, the US Congress introduced the Driver's Privacy Protection Act, which prevents Departments of Motor Vehicles from revealing the home addresses of state residents.
On July 27, 2007, he was attacked while he was incarcerated in the maximum-security unit at Mule Creek State Prison in Amador County, California. He suffered 11 stab wounds but ultimately managed to make a recovery.