ByKarly Rayner, writer at
Movie Pilot's celebrity savant
Karly Rayner

It's easy to look up at the stars and assume that they all live charmed lives, but just like the rest of us, some of them have been touched by great tragedies.

All of the celebrities below have a surprising connection to a murder case, and while some of the stories are utterly heartbreaking reading, there are also tales of how celebrities inadvertently caught killers at large.

So, without further ado, let's see which well know actors are just one degree of separation away from a tragic murder.

1. Kelsey Grammer: Father and Sister Murdered in Separate Incidences

Kelsey Grammar's father and sister met particularly violent ends at the hands of two separate murderers in 1968 and 1975 respectively.

Kelsey's father, Frank Grammer, was killed by an insane cab driver outside the home he shared with his new wife (Kelsey's parents separated when he was 2 years old). The murderer, Arthur B. Niles, set Frank Grammer's car on fire and when he went out to investigate the damage, he was shot twice at close range.

Kelsey with his sister Karen a year before she was killer
Kelsey with his sister Karen a year before she was killer

Although the murder of a parent is a tragedy that most of us will be fortunate enough to never experience, an even more shocking murder happened in Kelsey's family seven years later.

Serial murderer, Freddie Lee Glenn, who had already killed two people, abducted Kelsey's sister, Karen from the Red Lobster restaurant that she worked at when she was just 18 years old. Karen was taken to one of the men's apartments and gang raped before her throat was slit with a kitchen knife.

Freddie Lee Glenn after his arrest
Freddie Lee Glenn after his arrest

Kelsey Grammer was the family member who undertook the grim task of identifying his sister's body, but his dealings with the tragic case didn't end there.

In 2014, Glenn was eligible for parole and Kelsey Grammer testified via video link in an appeal to keep the ruthless killer behind bars. Kelsey explained that although time had allowed him to forgive Glenn for the murder, he wished for him to remain behind bars for the rest of his days. Glenn's parole was denied.

2. Woody Harrelson: Father Was a Lethal Gun for Hire

Woody Harrelson's father is famous in his own right, but not for a reason that anyone would be proud of.

Charles Harrelson was enmeshed with the criminal underworld as a contract killer and he shot and killed at least three people including federal judge, John H. Wood, Jr., the first federal judge to be assassinated in the 20th century.

Although Woody's mother separated from his father when the actor was seven years old, he still remembers how the murders committed by his father effected him as a child. Woody told The Guardian that:

"I was 11 or 12 when I heard his name mentioned on a car radio. I was in the car waiting for a lady who was picking me up from school, helping my mum, and anyway I was listening to the radio and it was talking about Charles V Harrelson and his trial for murder and blah blah blah blah and I'm sitting there thinking there can't be another Charles V Harrelson. I mean, that's my dad! It was a wild realization. Then the woman got in the car and saw my face and realized something was up. She was a very kind lady."
Charles Harrison's mug shots
Charles Harrison's mug shots

Despite the violent crimes he had committed, Woody visited his father in federal prison until his death in 2007. He admitted he harbored mixed feeling by explaining:

"My father is one of the most articulate, well-read, charming people I've ever known. Still, I'm just now gauging whether he merits my loyalty or friendship. I look at him as someone who could be a friend more than someone who was a father."

3. Bill Paxton: Photographed at Kennedy's Assassination

John F. Kennedy's assassination is one of the most talked about historical events of all time, and a young Bill Paxton was part of the smiling crowd that waved the president off on his ill fated journey.

Aged just 8 years old, Paxton can be seen hoisted above the crowd so he could get a better view of the president as he emerged from Hotel Texas in fort Worth before his fateful trip to Dallas.

Bill Paxton pictures on someone's shoulders
Bill Paxton pictures on someone's shoulders

Due to Paxton's elevated position, he is prominently featured in historic photos and videos of Kennedy's final hours and two still photographs featuring the actor as a child are on display at the Museum at Dealey Plaza .

4. Steve McQueen: Narrowly Escaped Execution by the Manson Family

Steve McQueen was one of the biggest movie stars of his day, but he narrowly avoided a fate that would have put a premature end to his career.

McQueen narrowly avoided becoming a victim of the cultish Manson Family on August 9, 1969, when sacking off a party at the last minute saved the iconic actor's life.

Sharon Tate: Murdered by the Manson family
Sharon Tate: Murdered by the Manson family

If he had attended, McQueen would have almost certainly been ritualistically murdered alongside Roman Polanski's wife, Sharon Tate and actresses Joanna Pettet and Barbara Lewis.

McQueen avoided the scene of the crime, which is remembered to this day for the brutal slaying of 26-year-old Tate, who was just two weeks away from giving birth to her first child, by having a chance encounter with a woman on the way to the party that led to a one night stand.

This chance escape gives a whole new resonance to the phrase "getting lucky."

5. Matthew McConaughey: Helped Solve a Murder Through the Medium of Acting

On August 24, 1978, a man named Edward Harold Bell was challenged by a former Marine in Pasadena, Texas for walking toward a group of children totally naked from the waist down. In response, the 26-year-old former military man named Larry Dickens was shot five times, his own mother witnessed the killing.

Bell was caught by local police, but when he was inexplicably released on bail he disappeared and became Texas's most wanted fugitive for over 14 years. This is where Matthew McConaughey came in.

McConaughey in the Unsolved Mysteries reenactment
McConaughey in the Unsolved Mysteries reenactment

As an unknown young actor from Texas, Matthew McConaughey was chosen to play Dickens in a televised reenactment for a show named Unsolved Mysteries that attracted millions of views.

After McConaughey was dramatically shot to death in what turned out to be his first onscreen acting role, the calls rolled in about Edward Harold Bell's whereabouts and he was soon discovered living in Panama.

The callous killer was captured, extradited and received a 70 year sentence for murdering Larry Dickens.

(Source: Today I Found Out, The Guardian, Listverse)


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