ABC’s ’20/20: Your Biggest Fan’ is an episode that explores the harrowing murder of actress and model Rebecca Schaeffer, along with its aftermath. On July 18, 1989, the 21-year-old was shot in the chest and killed after she opened the front door of her Los Angeles, California, home, only to find an obsessed fan determined to ruin her. He fled soon after pulling the trigger but was identified as Robert John Bardo and arrested in his native Tucson, Arizona, the very next day. So, here’s what we know about him.
Who is Robert John Bardo?
Born on January 2, 1970, as the youngest of seven children at the Edwards Air Force Base in California, Robert John Bardo had an extremely troubled childhood. Not only did the family move around quite often before settling down in Tucson in 1983, but he was allegedly also a victim of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of one of his siblings. Moreover, he was placed in foster care for a brief while after he threatened suicide and also wrote a few detailed letters to his teachers describing his malicious impulses.
Robert was eventually admitted into a psychiatric medical hospital, where he underwent a series of evaluations. He was deemed “severely emotionally handicapped” with a “pathological and dysfunctional” family. Despite being a straight-A student, he then elected to drop out of the Pueblo Magnet High School and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Apart from his mental health problems, Robert had also reportedly shown his stalking tendencies from a young age.
At the age of 13, he had stolen a $140 from his mother’s purse to travel to Maine and hopefully encounter actress and child peace activist Samantha Smith. She, unfortunately, died in an August 1985 airplane crash, following which Robert became obsessed with Rebecca Schaeffer. He was 16 at the time and wrote several letters to the actress, one of which she answered. From visiting sets to hiring a private investigator for $250 in order to attain her home address, he did it all. Robert even approached his brother, who unwittingly helped him acquire a gun before meeting the woman he coveted.
Where is Robert Bardo Now?
Although Robert John Bardo had been stalking the young actress for over three years, no one speculated that he would go down the dark road until it happened in July 1989. He’d briefly shifted his infatuations to some pop singers, yet he always returned to Rebecca. Ultimately, he found her, met her, and killed her to complete his “mission.” Then, he went back to Arizona and ran through a freeway. He was shouting, “I killed Rebecca Schaeffer,” when he was arrested the next day and appeared “at best disheveled and at worst drunk or stoned,” when taken into custody.
During Robert’s jury trial, it came to light that he was influenced by Arthur Jackson (a fan who’d attempted to kill Theresa Saldana in 1982) and U2’s song “Exit” (about the mind of a cruel criminal) to murder Rebecca. While the defense did not rebuff that Robert was behind the killing, they tried to play the insanity card. However, the prosecutors argued that although he was obsessive and had a history of mental illness, he was legally sane. In October 1991, Robert was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Therefore, today, at the age of 51, he is incarcerated at Avenal State Prison (ASP) in Kings County, California.
Read More: Where is Brad Silberling Now?