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Instead of Fame and Fortune, Young Musician Finds Death in Hollywood

May 12, 1988|RON RUSSELL | Times Staff Writer

On the day before his body was found last week stuffed in a ventilation shaft at Hollywood High School, 18-year-old Robbie Campo called home to say hello and assure his parents that they had not made a mistake in letting him come to Los Angeles to pursue his dream.

That dream of becoming a rock star had propelled him from the quiet, semi-rural village of Putnam Valley in Upstate New York to a noisy one-room apartment he shared with a friend a block from Hollywood Boulevard.

Friends and family said the slim youngster with long brown hair had it all figured out. Someday, he insisted, he was going to be famous.

From the time he arrived in Hollywood seven weeks ago with a guitar slung over his arm, his phone calls and letters to the folks back home exuded excitement and self-confidence.

"It feels good to be on the other side of America on my own," he wrote to a former high school buddy. "And the good part is we're doing great."

His story might not have differed much from hundreds of other teen-agers who flock to Hollywood each year seeking fame and fortune except that in the wee hours of May 2, for reasons that may never be known, Robbie Campo's dream ended in homicide.

Trail of Blood

A janitor, noticing a trail of blood that extended for 75 feet, found him in the shaft behind the school's liberal arts building at 6:30 a.m. He had been badly beaten and strangled, police said.

"We don't have a clue as to who did it," said Detective Ernie Bassett of the Los Angeles Police Department. "We don't have any witnesses, and we don't have much to go on."

Although police speculate that robbery may have been the motive, his friend said Campo did not have much money on him when the two of them left their nearby apartment to buy cigarettes about 1 a.m.

The friend, Chris Horsley, 18, told police that he was tired and returned to the apartment but that Campo complained of being restless and decided to take a walk in the direction of Sunset Boulevard and Highland Avenue where the high school is.

"It appears that (Campo) may have been accosted as he was walking near the school and was killed on the school property before being carried or dragged to the location where the body was found," Bassett said.

From the condition of the body and the distance involved, detectives believe that more than one person may have helped carry out the homicide.

"It's a tough area, especially at that time of night. If you run into the wrong group of people and you seem a little vulnerable, anything can happen," Bassett said.

Meanwhile, Robert Campo Sr., a private investigator, has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of his son's killers.

"He went out there with our blessing," the victim's father said. "We wanted to let him spread his wings a little and see if that was what he really wanted."

Those who knew Campo say that he talked of little else for months before coming to California.

Rock Guitarist

He and Horsley, who had been friends since grade school, each shared the same dream of one day making it big as a rock guitarist. After one of them saw an ad in a music magazine for a guitar school in Hollywood a couple of years ago, they made a pact to someday give California a try.

For Campo, it was a decision fraught with difficulties.

"He was getting a lot of pressure from his family to attend college, but he was always devoted to his music," said Mark Korsak, a friend from high school.

Several of his teachers described Campo as a youngster torn between the wishes of his parents and a strong desire to go his own way.

"Maybe it wouldn't have been such a dilemma for him if he hadn't been so talented," said Lindy Gessin, who teaches painting, sculpting and ceramics at Lakeland High School where Campo graduated last year.

Sharon Barette, another of Campo's teachers, said he "had the potential to make it as a painter, a sculptor, or, with his interest in broadcasting, I have no doubt that he could have been a success in television had he chosen to do so." As host of a twice-weekly rock music review on a local cable TV station, Campo appeared to merge his devotion to music with his parents' wishes during his senior year in high school.

Upon graduation, he had the enviable choice of accepting an internship at a New York City television station or a scholarship to study communications at Marist College, an hour's drive from Putnam Valley.

He accepted the scholarship but stayed in college less than a week.

"That just wasn't for Rob," said Kristine Marchese, 18, the girl he took to the senior prom and continued to correspond with after she went away to college. "He could have done anything he wanted, but the music was the love of his life."

Earned Money for Move

Instead, Campo went to work for a construction company to earn enough money to make the move to Los Angeles. By next September, he planned to enroll in the same guitar school Horsley attended shortly after the two of them settled in Hollywood in March.

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