History’s 9 Most Notorious Crimes of Passion

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History is plagued by all types of crime, but crimes of passion, in particular, have caused a great deal of heartache and have left so many people asking “why?” Crimes of passion typically involve assault or murder and are fueled by rage, heartbreak, and revenge. Out of all the tragic crimes of passion that have happened, these nine are the most notorious.

Murder of Phil Hartman

On May 28, 1998, comedian Phil Hartman was shot and killed by his wife, Brynn, who committed suicide hours after the murder. The shocking murder-suicide that left the couple’s two children orphaned stunned family and friends. The Hartmans had been married for 10 years, but Brynn was deeply troubled and the marriage was suffering because of her drug use. On the night of the murder, Brynn returned home intoxicated and got into a heated argument with Phil. He threatened to leave her if she started using drugs again. While Hartman was sleeping, Brynn shot him three times with a handgun. After the shooting, Brynn drove to a friend’s house and confessed to her crime, but he did not believe her. When they returned to Brynn’s home, her friend called the police and she went into the bedroom, where she committed suicide.

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Dismemberment of John Wayne Bobbitt

One of the most bizarre and unforgettable crimes of passion occurred on June 23, 1993, when Lorena Bobbitt attacked her husband and cut off approximately 2.5 cm of his penis after he allegedly raped her. According to her court testimony, Lorena left the house and threw his severed penis along the side of the highway. She realized the seriousness of the incident and called 911. Surgeons were able to reattach Bobbitt’s penis. and the jury found Lorena not guilty due to her husband’s sexual abuse — and her insanity that spurred this wild crime of passion.

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Attempted murder of Mary Jo Buttafuoco

The infamous love triangle between Joey Buttafuoco, his wife Mary Jo, and his mistress Amy Fisher became one of the biggest news stories of the ’90s. Joey Buttafuoco, a New York auto body shop owner, was having an affair with 17-year-old Amy Fisher, who subsequently shot his wife, Mary Jo, in the face. On May 19, 1992, Fisher, then nicknamed the “Long Island Lolita,” had an accomplice take her to Joey’s house to confront the wife. Mary Jo answered the door and Amy told her that Joey was having an affair with her 16-year-old sister. When Mary Jo brushed her off and told her to leave, Amy came inside and shot her in the head. Mary Jo survived the shooting and suffered a loss of hearing in one ear and partial paralysis on one side of her face. Fisher’s jealousy turned deadly and she served seven years in prison for first-degree attempted murder. Joey served six months in jail for statutory rape.

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Steve McNair murder

The brutal murder of Steve McNair was a crime of passion that shocked the sports world and beyond. On July 4, 2009, McNair was shot and killed by his 20-year-old girlfriend Sahel Kazemi, who immediately turned the gun on herself. Detectives said Kazemi was struggling to make ends meet and had recently been arrested for driving under the influence. She also made comments to co-workers about ending her life. Kazemi discovered that McNair was in another extramarital relationship and she decided to take his life in revenge.

 

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Arturo Gatti Murder

On July 11, 2009, Canadian boxer Arturo Gatti was found dead in a Brazilian hotel while on vacation with his wife, Amanda, and their infant son. Amanda spent 10 hours in the hotel before realizing that her husband was dead, and her blood-stained purse strap led authorities to believe she murdered him. His widow vehemently denied the allegations and claimed Arturo committed suicide. Brazilian police let her go and ruled his death as suicide, but the Canadian government required further investigation. In 2011, private investigators reported Arturo’s death as a homicide, but no arrests have been made.

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Lisa Nowak

In 2007, astronaut Lisa Nowak was arrested and charged with attempted kidnapping, burglary, and battery of Colleen Shipman, a woman who was involved with Nowak’s love interest. In a rage of jealousy, Nowak drove from Houston to Orlando to follow Shipman from the airport and talk to her about her relationship with Navy Cmdr. William Oefelein, pilot of the 2006 Discovery flight. The crazed Nowak packed a wig, trench coat, pepper spray, a BB gun, knife, and garbage bags on her trip to see Shipman. A disguised Nowak followed Shipman to her car and sprayed her with a chemical. She was caught and arrested by police and was later charged with attempted first degree murder.

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Marvin Gaye murder

Famous singer-songwriter Marvin Gaye was killed by his father during a heated argument at his parents’ LA home. Marvin Jr. and his father, Marvin Sr., had a long history of conflicts that were worsened by the singer’s personal problems. Tension continued to grow between the two men, and Marvin Jr. began collecting guns to protect himself. On April 1, 1984, the two men got into a heated argument that quickly turned physical. The fight was broken up by Gaye’s mother, but Marvin Sr. returned with the .38 pistol that his son gave him and shot his son in the chest and fired again. Marvin Sr. killed his son in the heat of the moment and he was sentenced to five years of probation.

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Murder of Alfred T. Elliot

Crimes of passion became more common during the Great Depression, and the murder of Alfred T. Elliot became one of the most notable cases. Bibeau murdered Elliot because he was having an affair with Elliot’s wife and he wanted him out of the picture. What further spurred this crime of passion was the fact that Elliot was handling some of Bibeau’s finances, which could have turned detrimental if Eliott found out about their secret romance.

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Murder of Philip Barton Key

U.S. Congressman and Union general Daniel Sickles committed a crime of passion when he killed his wife’s lover, district attorney Philip Barton Key, son of Francis Scott Key, in 1859. Sickles shot and killed Key in Lafayette Park, which is across the street from the White House, because he was having an affair with his wife. Sickles is also famous for being the first person to use “temporary insanity” as a legal defense. Sickles’ defense told the jury that he was driven insane by his wife’s infidelities and he was later acquitted of his crime of passion.

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