We might put them on a pedestal, but celebrities aren’t immune to doing very bad things. And they don’t come much worse than murder. Here’s a look at ten stars who turned killer and were sent to prison for deliberately taking the life of another.
10. Michael Jace
Actor Michael Jace played characters on both sides of the law during his long-running career, most notably as L.A. police officer Julien Lowe in gritty HBO drama The Wire and ex-convict Andre Tibbs in Cold Case. In 2014, though, the New Jersey native found himself potentially becoming a convict in real life, too, when he was charged with the murder of his spouse.
On the night of the murder, Jace actually admitted to shooting his wife April dead in his 911 call. Even more shockingly, he had committed the deed in front of their two kids. The star reportedly snapped after April demanded a divorce. Two years after his horrible crime, then, he paid the price for that moment of madness when he was sentenced to a minimum of 40 years behind bars.
9. Phil Spector
Phil Spector was responsible for creating some of the greatest pop singles of the ’60s, not to mention the legendary Wall of Sound production technique that graced some of the era’s best tunes. But the New Yorker was also renowned for being something of a tyrant in the studio. He reportedly lost it and shot a gun into the roof while recording with John Lennon, for example; he also kept The Ramones imprisoned in his house for six hours during one particularly fraught session.
It wasn’t too surprising, therefore, when in 2003 news emerged that he’d been charged with the fatal shooting of Lana Clarkson at his California mansion. Spector claimed that the actress had actually tried to kill herself, but after a mistrial, the wild-haired music mogul was eventually found guilty of murder in the second degree and sent to jail for 19 years.
8. Oscar Pistorius
Oscar Pistorius became the poster boy for Paralympians as the first double leg amputee in history to compete in the Olympic Games in 2012. The South African, who lost the lower half of his legs just before he turned one, had also won six golds at the Paralympics and reached number one in the world rankings in the 100 meters, 200 meters and 400 meters events. During one fateful Valentine’s night in 2013, however, his glittering career ended in one of the most ignominious ways possible.
Indeed, Pistorius sent shockwaves around the world that February when it was revealed that he had shot his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, to death at their South African mansion. In 2014 the athlete was found guilty of culpable homicide and handed a sentence of five years; this conviction was then upgraded to murder in 2015. Pistorius, however, still maintains that he shot Steenkamp by accident after wrongly assuming that she was a trespasser seeking refuge in his bathroom.
7. Dog the Bounty Hunter
Duane Chapman shot to fame in 2003 when he seized Andrew Luster, the Max Factor cosmetics heir who was on the run from multiple drug and rape charges. Eight seasons of A&E reality show Dog the Bounty Hunter then followed, turning Chapman into an international star. But several decades earlier, the bounty hunter had actually been on the wrong side of the law himself.
Indeed, Chapman is one of those rare figures who managed to carve out a celebrity career after serving jail time for first-degree murder. In the mid ’70s, the reality star actually spent a year and a half inside Texas State Penitentiary as punishment for his involvement in the murder of alleged drug dealer Jerry Oliver. In one way, however, prison was to be Chapman’s making, because it was while serving time that he got the idea to become a bounty hunter – and the rest is history.
6. Felicia Pearson
Felicia Pearson — aka Snoop — first attracted attention for her excellent portrayal of a sinister female baddie in the TV series The Wire and also had roles in the Spike Lee movies Da Sweet Blood and Chi-Raq. But the diminutive star could rap as well as act, and you might have seen her in the videos of Lil’ Mo, Rick Ross and Ace Hood.
However, like Duane Chapman, Pearson’s fame followed an earlier murder conviction. The actress had a rough childhood: she was the daughter of two convicted drug addicts and raised in foster care before turning to a life of crime herself. Pearson began dealing drugs during her early teens and committed murder aged just 14 when she shot another girl to death. She spent six and a half years at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women, where she obtained her GED and, fortunately, decided to turn her life around.
5. Aaron Hernandez
Aaron Hernandez already had something of a checkered past when he signed for the New England Patriots in 2010. The tight end had ruptured a restaurant worker’s eardrum during an altercation in 2007, and later that same year he was also named in connection with a drive-by shooting. Just a few years later, though, things became even more grim when Hernandez was touted as the NFL’s first serial killer.
In 2014 Hernandez was indicted on murder charges for the deaths of two men in Boston in 2012, and in 2015 he was also found guilty of fatally shooting footballer Odin Lloyd. The disgraced sports star was handed a life sentence and told he would never be able to apply for parole.
4. Don King
Don King was famous for his role in organizing legendary boxing events such as the “Rumble in the Jungle” and the “Thrilla in Manila.” But the wild-haired boxing promoter spent just as much time in court as he did at the side of the ring. In fact, Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis are just some of the stars who sued King for fraud; before he shot to fame, moreover, King also killed two men in two separate incidents.
In 1953 King fatally shot a man who was trying to steal from one of his gambling businesses, and the incident was ruled a justifiable homicide. Then, thirteen years later, the promoter horrifically stomped a member of his staff to death because he hadn’t paid off his debts to King. The second-degree murder charge he was convicted of for this latter incident, however, was later changed to non-negligent manslaughter, and King spent four years behind bars for the crime before eventually receiving a pardon in 1983.
3. Eric Naposki
Incredibly, Aaron Hernandez wasn’t the first New England Patriots star who ended his sports career as a convicted murderer. Eric Napowski enjoyed a couple of seasons with the team in the late ’80s before moving on to the Indianapolis Colts and Barcelona Dragons, achieving a World Bowl win with the latter in 1997.
In 2009, however, Napowski was detained and charged with the fatal shooting of a man in California 15 years previously. The ex-footballer reportedly killed Bill McLaughlin as part of an insurance scam and conspiracy with the victim’s wife Nanette, with whom he was having a secret relationship at the time. Both parties were found guilty of first-degree murder in 2012, and each was handed a life term with no possibility of parole.
2. Vybz Kartel
Vybz Kartel was one the most high-profile figures of Jamaica’s dancehall scene at the turn of the 21st century, and during the early noughties he guested on records by Rihanna, Missy Elliott and Busta Rhymes. The reggae talent also received nominations at the VIBE and MOBO Awards, and he was even the voice behind Major Lazer anthem “Pon de Floor.” But the star’s career ended in 2014, thanks to a very serious charge that prompted the longest Jamaican trial on record.
That year Kartel was acquitted of the murder of a Jamaican businessman; just months later, however, he had to stand trial once more for the murder of a business colleague. This time, at the end of a record-breaking 65 days, an 11-member jury found him guilty. The star was subsequently sentenced to life in jail, and it will be another three decades before he can even apply for parole.
1. Mark Rogowski
Mark Rogowski was one of the major stars of the professional skateboarding circuit of the 1980s, alongside the likes of Tony Hawk and Lance Mountain. But the New Yorker struggled to adapt when fans turned to street skateboarding instead, and after the breakdown of a long-term relationship, he began to display increasingly worrying behaviors that ultimately led to a series of horrific crimes.
Rogowski repeatedly threatened his ex-girlfriend and her new lover, but it was her friend Jessica Bergsten who was to bear the tragic consequences of his temper. Bergen was beaten unconscious by the skater, who then raped her, suffocated her and buried her body in the Shell Canyon desert. Rogowski confessed to the crimes and in 1992 was sentenced to 31 years behind bars. In 2011, moreover, he was refused parole on the grounds that he was still a risk to society.