It’s no secret that celebrities lead glamorous lives, but all the expensive vacations, designer labels, private jets, and multi-million dollar mansions can’t mend a family tragedy. Worse yet, A-listers are under a unique microscope … so when awful things happen, they tend to spread like wildfire through the tabloids. Would the movie Chappaquiddick even exist if our culture wasn’t immensely drawn towards a tragic celeb scandal?
More often than not, celebrity families find themselves navigating their most trying times in the public eye. In rare cases, this even extends to death. However, there are a shocking amount of celebrity family members who have actually killed someone — whether it was accidental or not. At the heart of it, no one wants to read a headline about the time they were allegedly responsible for another human being’s passing in an unavoidable accident. That’s something that would be unbelievably difficult to deal with on its own, but members of Tinseltown aren’t really afforded that grace.
These celeb family members all allegedly took someone else’s life.
Charlize Theron’s family tragedy
Charlize Theron‘s teen years were marred with tragedy, but it didn’t affect her the way you might think. According to People, her mother, Gerda Maritz, shot her father, Charles Theron, to death in an act of self-defense when the Monster star was just 15 years old.
The actress‘ profile in The New York Times reports that the incident was sparked when Charles, a verbally abusive alcoholic, came home with his brother after a night of heavy drinking. He reportedly threatened Gerda with a gun and began shooting. Gerda grabbed her own shotgun and ended up fatally wounding her husband and injuring her brother-in-law.
In a 2017 interview with Howard Stern, Charlize Theron opened up about how living with an alcoholic parent was actually more traumatic than her father’s death, though she initially pretended it didn’t happen and told people he died in a car accident: "I think what more affected me for my adult life that happened in my childhood was more the everyday living of a child living in the house with an alcoholic and waking up not knowing what was going to happen" (via People). The star even credited her mother as the source of her bravery when she spoke to Extra the following year.
Brandy isn’t living in a Cinderella story
R&B songstress Brandy comes from a star-studded family that rose out of the music industry and became TV and film stars. Yup, the Norwoods have got all angles of Hollywood covered. The singer was, perhaps, the most iconic live-action Cinderella to ever grace the screen (sorry, Hilary Duff), and her brother, Ray J, has innumerable reality TV credits (his other major projects include Sharknado 3 and Kim Kardashian‘s leaked sex tape).
Despite the wholesome nature of Moesha and Cinderella, there is some tragedy in this Norwood family fairy tale. According to Reuters, Brandy was involved in a "fatal, four-car accident" in Los Angeles in December 2006, which claimed the life of a 38-year-old mother named Awatef Aboudihaj. Aboudihaj was driving the car that Brandy rear-ended.
In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, the Grammy award-winning singer, who faced no criminal charges, admitted the accident was understandably one of the worst times in her life. "You never wake up thinking that … today is the day that something like this would happen," she said, adding, "I just, I couldn’t believe it, and I don’t like to think about, because I don’t think that’s something I can ever get over or ever truly understand."
Billy Bob Thorton’s daughter is serving 20 years
Billy Bob Thornton’s daughter, Amanda Brumfield, is currently serving a 20-year sentence behind bars after her one-year-old goddaughter tragically died in her care in 2008.
According to Reuters, Olivia Madison Garcia passed away after fracturing her skull and suffering from brain bleeding and swelling. While Brumfeld claimed that the infant fell and hit her head while trying to climb out of a playpen, the prosecuting team claimed that these injuries were not accidental. The Orlando Sentinal reports that prosecutors argued it wasn’t possible for such short fall to cause a "3 1/2-inch fracture on the back of the girl’s skull and the bleeding and swelling found in her brain."
Brumfield was acquitted of first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse, but was ultimately convicted of aggravated manslaughter. After Brumfield’s arrest, Thornton’s publicist told CNN that the actor was estranged from his daughter (via The Hollywood Reporter): "When informed about this situation, [Thornton] commented that, ‘Anytime a baby’s life is lost is an unimaginable tragedy and my heart goes out to the baby’s family and loved ones.’"
Venus Williams was left ‘speechless’ after a tragic car crash
Venus and Serena Williams are a dynamic duo in the world of tennis, but Venus found herself navigating a wrongful death lawsuit without her sister after a fatal car crash in 2017. According to CNN, it all started when a Hyundai Accent — belonging to Linda and Jerome Barson — crashed into the pro athlete’s Toyota Sequoia at an intersection in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Driver Linda sustained major injuries, while husband Jerome, who was a passenger, passed away from his injuries two weeks after the accident. Charges were not filed against Venus, but the Barsons brought on a wrongful death lawsuit.
Per TMZ, their case alleged that Williams "failed to yield the right of way, blew through a red light, drove too fast while distracted, and recklessly created a situation where the accident was unavoidable." People even reports that Venus was originally told she was "at fault" for the accident. However, after reviewing surveillance video footage, police determined that the tennis star entered the intersection lawfully during a green light. Authorities had "no final determination" of which party was at fault, and the suit was eventually settled for an undisclosed sum in 2018.
During a Wimbledon press conference in July 2017, Venus tearfully opened up about the accident: "There are really no words to describe how devastating and — yeah. I’m completely speechless" (via CNN).
Jennifer Hudson’s former brother-in-law’s triple murder
The year of 2008 should have been a good one for Jennifer Hudson. The American Idol alum was fresh off the success of Sex and the City and a Grammy Award win when the unimaginable happened: the star’s estranged brother-in-law, William Balfour, was arrested and charged with the murder of three of Hudson’s family members.
According to the Chicago Tribune, a relative found Hudson’s mother and brother — Darnell Donerson and Jason Hudson — shot to death in their home in the south side of Chicago on October 24, 2008. The singer-actress’ seven-year-old nephew, Julian King, was missing from the scene. Four days after police issued an Amber Alert, he was found shot to death in the back of a stolen SUV. Balfour was arrested and ultimately given three consecutive life sentences and "120 years for home invasion, possession of a stolen motor vehicle and aggravated kidnapping." According to ABC 7 Chicago, he did not testify at his trial.
Hudson, who gave birth to a baby boy named David the year after the murders, later told Glamour, "I went from being an aunt, having a mom, and being a child to not having a mom, becoming a mom, and raising my own child. I tell David [now six] all the time, ‘You saved my life.’"
Caitlyn Jenner’s tragic collision
Caitlyn Jenner should be used to the cameras after years of starring on Keeping Up with the Kardashians. That’s just the price of being part of ex Kris Jenner‘s crew. But unfortunately, the paparazzi still sometimes trips her up. That was, at the very least, what allegedly happened when she was involved in a tragic multi-car accident in 2015.
According to USA Today, the incident was triggered when a woman named Jessica Steindorff suddenly stopped on a highway in Malibu, Calif. Her car was struck by a Lexus sedan, which "tried to break in time," but was rear-ended by Jenner’s black Cadillac Escalade. The woman driving the Lexus "veered into oncoming traffic," where she "collided head-on with a black Hummer" and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Though police reportedly claimed Jenner wasn’t being chased by paps at the time of the incident, the reality star told a different story. Her lawyer filed a cross-complaint that asserted Jenner was "visually distracted" because of the paparazzi who were "stalking" and "harassing" her. Furthermore, Jenner was reportedly driving below the speed limit and did try to brake at the time of the incident. According to ABC News, the former Olympian paid $800,000 to settle a lawsuit that was connected to the crash, but did not face any criminal charges.
Goldie’s son allegedly killed a rival gang member
In 2016, Goldie (born Clifford Price) was awarded the high honor of an MBE by the Prince of Wales for his contribution to British dance music. According to the Independent, he first rose to fame with his 1995 album Timeless, which is reportedly considered "one of the landmark British releases of that decade." Despite his success, the music star does have some family troubles. His son, Jamie Price, was sentenced to a minimum of 21 years in prison following a gang-related murder in 2008.
The Guardian reports that Jamie was part of the Firetown Crew and had spotted a member of a rival gang named Marlon Morris, who was unarmed and drinking with his friends, at around around 3:30 a.m. one night. Morris’ arm was in a sling after a motorbike accident, but Jamie still reportedly chased him through the Wolverhampton city center before stabbing him four times and fatally wounding his heart.
Goldie admitted he tried to help his son to no avail. "I tried to give him opportunities," he said (via The Guardian). "I told him that I’d pay for anything he wanted to do. But he went the other way."
The death that ruined Ted Kennedy’s political career
The Kennedy family is equally as famous for their politics as they are for their long list of tragedies. One of the most infamous was Ted Kennedy‘s 1969 car accident that claimed the life of Mary Jo Kopechne, a 28-year-old woman who previously worked on Robert F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign.
According to History, Ted Kennedy was driving his Oldsmobile in Chappaquiddick, a small island right off of Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. Kopechne was riding along as a passenger when the car plunged off a bridge and landed upside down in the water. The former senator managed to escape and reportedly dove into the water to try to find Kopechne. However, his attempts to rescue her — even later with the help of cousin Joseph Gargan and aide Paul Markham — were ultimately unsuccessful. Kennedy reportedly went back hotel room, and "Kopechne remained underwater for some nine hours until her body was recovered the next morning."
The accident famously destroyed Ted Kennedy’s political career, and even to this day, the actual events aren’t exactly clear. Some reports claim he frantically called his mistress for help in the wake of the accident, while others allege that Kopechne was pregnant with his baby. In 2017, the former senator’s darkest moment became the subject of a movie called Chappaquiddick.
Ray Sharkey’s daughter was labeled criminally insane
Actor Ray Sharkey is best known for his work on ’80s hits like Wiseguy and The Idolmaker, but his legacy was marred 12 years after his death when his daughter, Cecelia Sharkey, reportedly committed murder.
According to CBS Los Angeles, Cecelia allegedly struck her mother-in-law in the head with a baseball bat following an argument that broke out in their home in 2015. The actor’s daughter reportedly fled the scene, but was ultimately arrested and charged with "suspicion of murder."
Cecelia initially faced life in prison if convicted, but narrowly escaped the massive sentence because she was found "insane at the time of the crime," according to The San Fernando Valley Sun. The actor’s daughter pleaded "no contest to second-degree murder" and was sent to Patton State Hospital. The Desert Sun reports that this institution is home to some of California’s severely mentally ill patients, the majority of which have been labeled criminally insane.
Laura Bush had a tragic teenage car wreck
Laura Bush is notoriously mum about the tragedy that struck her when she was just 17 years old, but she did open up about it in her memoir, Laura Bush: Spoken from the Heart. In 1963, the former first lady was involved in a fatal car accident that claimed the life of her high school friend, Mike Douglas.
According to her memoir, Bush was driving her father’s Chevy Impala down a dark country road in Midland, Texas when she ran a stop sign in a rush to get to a drive-in movie theater (via The New York Times). She subsequently smashed into Douglas’ car, and he later died from his injuries. Bush was "wracked by guilt" in the years following the crash, especially because she didn’t attend Douglas’ funeral or reach out to his parents. Instead, she just dealt with it by pretending it didn’t happen.
"I lost my faith that November, lost it for many, many years," Bush, who shares two daughters with Former President George W. Bush, wrote. "It was the first time that I had prayed to God for something, begged him for something, not the simple childhood wishing on a star but humbly begging for another human life. And it was as if no one heard. My begging, to my seventeen-year-old mind, had made no difference."
This MLB player’s son allegedly killed his girlfriend
Former Boston Red Sox player Jerry Remy might have hit it big with Major League Baseball, but he’s had more than his fair share of struggles in the family front. His son, Jared Remy, who served as a security guard at Fenway Park, was fired by the league in 2008 after allegedly using steroids, according to The Boston Globe. However, his problems didn’t end there.
Per Slate, Jared had been arrested 14 different times for alleged assaults committed against "girlfriends and others." In 2013, he appeared in court after reportedly "slamming" girlfriend Jennifer Martel’s "face into a mirror." He was released without bail, but things escalated the following day when Jared stabbed Martel "to death in front of their 4-year-old daughter and neighbors."
According to Mass Live, Jared Remy was sentenced to life in prison for Martel’s murder. During the sentencing, he called Martel an "angel," but, in a move that showed little remorse, claimed he had warned her. "I always told Jen she could leave but do not threaten me with my daughter," he said (via Mass Live). "That night she had a knife in her hand and threatened me with my daughter, so I killed her. I don’t think it’s right when women use their kids against their fathers."
Kevin O’Leary’s wife was involved in a boat accident
Shark Tank star Kevin O’Leary was involved in a boat accident that killed two people and left several others injured in late August 2019. O’Leary’s wife, Linda, was operating his boat at the time, his rep told TMZ, and passed a sobriety test at the time of the crash, which occurred on Lake Joseph in Ontario, Canada.
According to the Canadian entrepreneur’s camp, the other boat involved allegedly did not have its navigation lights on at the time of the collision and reportedly "fled the scene of the accident." Meanwhile, O’Leary’s boat has been accused of hitting the other, larger boat before "going directly over its bow and striking" 64-year-old Gary Poltash in the head. He tragically died on contact. A second passenger, Susanne Brito, 48, also sadly succumbed to her injuries in the hospital days later after reportedly suffering severe brain damage from the accident.
For his part, O’Leary told NBC News in a statement that he was "devastated" by the incident and the pain it had caused, and noted that he would be cooperating with authorities. At the time of this writing, an investigation into this devastating accident is ongoing.