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Suspect on Tape Tells of Actress's Last Words

October 22, 1991|ANDREA FORD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The man on trial for stalking and killing Rebecca Schaeffer gave a graphic account of the actress screaming "Why, why?" as he gunned her down in the doorway of her apartment building, according to a videotaped interview played in court Monday to bolster his insanity defense.

Yet Robert John Bardo, 21, said on the tape that he "almost had a heart attack" when he heard on television that night that the fresh-faced sitcom star was dead.

"It was a weird idea to know that I had killed somebody," Bardo said in the interview with psychiatrist Dr. Park Dietz, videotaped at the Men's Central Jail last month.

As he listened in court to his account of the shooting, Bardo hung his head and pressed his clenched fists over his ears.

At the time of Schaeffer's July, 1989, murder in the doorway of her Fairfax district apartment building, the actress was a co-star of the television situation comedy "My Sister Sam."

Superior Court Judge Dino Fulgoni is hearing the case without a jury. If convicted, Bardo faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.

On the videotape, Bardo told of visiting Schaeffer twice on the morning of her death, carrying a loaded .357 magnum pistol in a shopping bag to complete his "mission."

He said Schaeffer answered the door and spoke to him about a post card she had sent him in response to a fan letter. She smiled at him, said, "Please take care," and shook his hand as he left.

As he walked away, Bardo said, he remembered he had a letter and a compact disc he meant to give to her, so he decided to return to Schaeffer's apartment.

"She was in her bathrobe and I was thinking this is the wrong time. She's taking a shower," he said.

"She said: 'You came to my door again.' It was like I was bothering her again. 'Hurry up, I don't have much time.'

"I thought that was a very callous thing to say to a fan."

He then showed how he pulled the gun from the bag, aimed it at her and fired, mimicking the sound of the weapon.

"She was just screaming," he said, imitating her cries. "She was going: 'Why, why?' . . . I was still fumbling around, thinking I should blow my head off and fall on her."

Bardo on the tape also discussed his interest in other obsessed fans who attacked performers.

In 1988--during a trip to New York City, where he unsuccessfully sought to meet pop singer Debbie Gibson, to whom he had also been attracted--Bardo said he visited the spot where former Beatle John Lennon was killed by Mark David Chapman.

Later, he said, he read a People magazine article about Arthur Jackson, who attacked and nearly killed actress Theresa Saldana.

From the article, he said, he learned that he could hire someone to find out Schaeffer's address. Bardo subsequently hired a Tucson private detective, who obtained Schaeffer's address from the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Bardo's public defender, Stephen Galindo, contends that his client's obsession with Schaeffer stemmed from long-standing mental illness.

But Deputy Dist. Atty. Marcia Clark maintains that Bardo was sane as he stalked the actress for two years, then killer her.

Galindo has not entered a plea in the case to protest the fact that Bardo was brought from Tucson, where he lived, to Los Angeles for trial without an extradition hearing.

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