‘The Playboy Murders: Double Trouble’ takes us in the middle of a riveting tale of fame, betrayal, and crime, involving the Playboy twins Sandy and Mandy Bentley. Showcasing the darker side of fame, Michael Tardio and Chris Monson get the brunt of it as they are found dead in a North Hollywood neighborhood. The episode not only details the events that led to the double homicide but also the extensive investigation that followed.
How Did Michael Tardio and Chris Monson Die?
Michael Ames Tardio was born on November 17, 1966, in Port Chester, New York, to Mr. and Mrs. Neil Tardio. Growing up with his siblings — Amy and David Blumberg, Jeryl and Kenneth Malloy, and Julia and Neil Tardio, Jr. — in a loving household, Michael did his schooling at the Harvey School in Katonah, New York, Avon Old Farms Academy in Avon, Connecticut, and Harrison High School in Harrison, New York. For higher studies, he attended Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. For a short period, he worked at Neil Tardio Productions in New York City, after which he decided to pursue a career in the entertainment industry and moved to Los Angeles in the late 1990s. At the time of his death, he worked as a doorman at the Garden of Eden, one of Hollywood’s hottest nightclubs.
Known for being a loving father and friend, Michael was formerly married to Kelsey Oldershaw Tardio and a father of two adorable children — Lucas Shaw and Riley Gristina. On the other hand, Christopher Stuart Monson was brought into the world by Chris Monson and Irene Monson on August 23, 1971, in Provo, Utah. While growing up, he was accompanied by his two sisters and two brothers — Kimberly, Amy, Drew, and Adam. After completing his schooling at Sabino High School in 1989, he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and communications from the University of Arizona in 1995. Once he had graduated, he moved to Los Angeles, where he started a self-storage business with his father in Culver City.
Michael, 35, and Christopher, 31, were friends who came from well-off families and stayed away from danger. While the former was a former model, Christopher was an aspiring actor looking to make a mark in the industry. However, their Hollywood dreams perished with them in the early hours of September 2, 2002, as they were found dead inside a blazing Mercedes SUV in a North Hollywood neighborhood. After the authorities rushed to the crime scene, they inspected the bodies closely and found out that they had been shot to death from close range and left to burn inside the vehicle. The investigators could not find any useable evidence in and around the crime scene. Thus, they announced a $75,000 reward for any incriminating information that might lead to the perpetrator/s.
Who Killed Michael Tardio and Chris Monson?
While the police were unlucky in the evidence department, they got loads of information about Michael and Christopher’s personal lives by interrogating their respective family and loved ones. The authorities found out that at the time of his demise, Michael had been dating a Playboy magazine star named Sandy Bentley. She and her twin sister, Mandy Bentley, were considered minor celebrities at the time after they had featured on the May 2000 cover of Playboy. What added to their fame was them dating the magazine’s founder, Hugh Hefner, between 1999 and 2000.
During that time, Sandy crossed paths with a Wall Street trader named Mark Yagalla in Las Vegas. From the time they met in August 1999 until October 2000, Mark gave her gifts worth more than $6 million, including a $1.7-million home in Las Vegas, numerous luxury cars, several pieces of fine jewelry, three Rolex watches, and a Chopard watch worth $500,000. He even gifted her a ruby and diamond platinum necklace that was similar to the one shown in ‘Pretty Woman.’ Mark was reportedly operating a giant Ponzi scheme, which was how he could afford these gifts and his lavish lifestyle.
In October 2000, Mark was arrested on mail fraud charges and pleaded guilty on February 14, 2002. As a result, he received a five years and five months imprisonment sentence. When Sandy was questioned about the gifts she had received, she refused to know anything about her former boyfriend’s illegal business. However, she was ordered to return all the presents to a receiver appointed by the court, out of which she managed to keep some of it.
Just after getting out of the relationship with Mark Yagalla, Sandy began dating Michael Tardio in the fall of 2002. It is believed that the couple hatched a plan together to sell the jewelry she got from her former boyfriend and gain some fast cash for themselves. After allegedly setting up an appointment with an unknown buyer for September 1, 2002, Michael picked up his motorcycle-racing buddy, Christopher, and headed for Studio City to complete the deal. The detectives suspect that the two friends were murdered by the person, or the group of people, whom they went to meet.
The killer/s set the vehicle on fire, seemingly to destroy evidence, but the authorities were able to retrieve some evidence that suggested that the two victims were robbed and it was the expensive jewelry that became the reason for their demise. According to the detectives, Mark would be the prime suspect in the case but he was locked up in a prison in Pensacola, Florida, at the time of the murder, which eliminated him as a suspect. The authorities also believed that Michael could have been a target of one of the club-goers he denied entering the Garden of Eden, where he manned the door.
Where are Sandy and Mandy Bentley, Mark Yagalla Now?
Sandy Bentley, and her identical twin Mandy Bentley (Amanda), AKA the Bentley Twins, rose to fame in the 2000s as they lived with Hugh Hefner at his Playboy Mansion and were featured in some popular TV shows, including ‘Sex and the City,’ ‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,’ and ‘Two and a Half Men.’ As of now, both Sandy and Mandy are supposedly living life under the radar and away from the prying eyes of the media while staying focused on their respective personal lives.
As for the former Wall Street millionaire, Mark Yagalla, he released a tell-all book titled ‘Wall Street Joyride — The Prodigy, The Playmate and the Missing $50 Million’ in 2022. In the book, he discusses his relationship with Sandy Bentley, talks about his time in prison for scamming investors, and apologizes to all his victims profusely. As of late 2022, he was leading an ordinary life with his girlfriend and two kids just outside Bangkok, Thailand.