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Top 5 Most Notorious Crimes of Passion

Top 5 most notorious crimes of passion for this Valentine's Day
Top 5 most notorious crimes of passion for this Valentine’s Day. Credit: VanDammeMaarten. CC BY 2.0/flickr

Crimes of passion, associated with the brutal act of murdering a loved one, are often driven by intense emotions such as sexual jealousy, revenge, or heartbreak. Among the many instances of such tragic events witnessed globally, these are particularly notorious.

The murder of Phil Hartman

Phil Hartman.
Phil Hartman. Credit: Paul Hartmann. CC BY-3.0/Wikimedia Commons/Phil Hartmann

Phil Hartman was a Canadian-born American actor, comedian, screenwriter, and graphic designer who featured on Saturday Night Live, voiced characters such as Troy McClure in The Simpsons and starred in a number of TV shows and films, including The Dana Carvey Show, 3rd Rock From the Sun, Coneheads, and Small Soldiers.

The Simpsons creator Matt Groening had always liked Phil’s work, having said, “I took Hartman for granted because he nailed the joke every time. His voice acting could produce the maximum amount of humor with any line.”

On May 28, 1998, at the age of 49, Phil was shot and killed by his wife, Brynn, who, hours later, went into their marital bedroom and committed suicide. The murder-suicide left the couple’s two children, Birgen and Sean, orphaned.

The Hartmans had been married for ten years, but it was a troubled marriage, overcast by Phil’s busy work schedule and Brynn’s drug and alcohol abuse. On the night of the murder, Brynn, Phil’s third wife, came home intoxicated, and the couple engaged in a heated argument. Phil told Brynn he would leave her if she started taking drugs again, and that night, while Phil was sleeping, Brynn shot him three times with a handgun.

Afterwards, Brynn drove to a friend’s house and confessed her crime, but her friend did not believe her. When the pair went back to Brynn’s home, her friend called the police and the intoxicated wife went into her and her deceased husband’s bedroom, where she committed suicide.

Dismemberment of John Wayne Bobbitt

John Wayne Bobbitt.
John Wayne Bobbitt. Credit: Bob K. CC By 2.0/Wikimedia Commons/Bob K

John Wayne Bobbitt, a bar bouncer and former US Marine, and his then-wife Lorena, an Ecuadorian immigrant, made international headlines in June 1993 when Lorena severed John’s penis with a food knife while he was asleep in bed. She cut off approximately an inch (2.5 cm) of his penis, and, according to her testimony in court, she left the house and threw it along the side of the highway.

The seriousness of the incident hit Lorena, and she called 911. Surgeons were able to reattach John’s penis.

Lorena claimed that in the years leading up to this incident, John had repeatedly raped and abused her. John was charged with rape later that year but was acquitted and, after that, starred in two pornographic films. The following year, Lorena was acquitted of assault by reason of insanity and went on to create a foundation for domestic abuse victims and their children.

Murder of Marvin Gaye

The revered singer, known for his romantic soul-filled music, was also killed in a crime of passion.

American singer and songwriter Marvin Gaye, who helped shape the sound of Motown in the 1960s and brought the public classics like “Let’s Get It On” and “Sexual Healing” was murdered by his father, Marvin Sr., during a heated argument at his parents’ home in Los Angeles. The pair had a long history of disagreements and conflicts that were aggravated further by the singer’s personal problems, including bouts of depression and drug abuse.

Tensions mounted between the father and son, and Marvin Jr. started to collect guns to protect himself. On April 1, 1984, the two men got into one of their typical arguments, which quickly turned physical.

Marvin Gaye’s mother came between the two to stop the fighting, but Marvin Sr. left the room and came back with a .38 pistol that his son gave him and shot Marvin Jr. in the chest. He then fired again. The singer was pronounced dead on arrival at the California Hospital Medical Center.

The singer’s father was sentenced to five years of probation. Marvin Sr. was a Pentecostal minister married to Alberta Cooper. The couple had four children—daughters Jeanne and Zeola and sons Marvin Jr. and Frankie. Marvin Jr. also fathered another son named Antwaun Carey, whom he conceived with another woman following one of his extramarital affairs.

Marvin Sr. was known to be a very strict father, and according to his children, would question them on Biblical passages, and would beat them if they answered incorrectly.

The High School Lover

“My husband just killed someone,” Erin Mclean told the 911 dispatcher. The young woman was calling to tell the police that her husband, 31-year-old Eric, had shot her younger lover. It was 2007 in Knoxville, Tennessee.

While Mclean was working towards her PhD, she had met 17-year-old Sean Powell during an internship. She fell madly in love with him and even started tutoring him, letting him move into a spare room. “It was almost like she was regressing back to her teenager kind of emotions,” Eric said in his court testimony. “She just stopped talking to me all together in November. It was like there was no communication at all.” Erin and Sean began an affair and went as far as to taunt Eric with it.

The husband grabbed a rifle and initially claimed he was just trying to scare Sean, but then, according to him, Sean lunged forward and grabbed at the gun, which made it go off and kill the 17-year-old.

Eric was eventually found not guilty on all murder charges and on voluntary manslaughter charges. He was found guilty of reckless homicide and was sentenced to just ninety days in jail with credit for time served.

An Insurance Money Kill

This crime of passion was for love and money…

In 1991, Dan Willoughby and his family were vacationing in Las Conchas, Mexico when Dan and his three children went out for a walk, leaving wife Trish behind to take a nap. When Dan and the three kids came back, they found the 43-year-old mom’s skull crushed. She had been stabbed, bludgeoned, and strangled with a knife protruding from her head. She was still breathing when found but died later that day.

The crime was not random. Authorities discovered that Dan was having an affair with and was even engaged to a transgender woman named Yesenia Patino. Dan had convinced Yesenia to murder his wife, and, subsequently, he would only be with her, not to mention he stood to gain millions from his wife’s life insurance and business assets.

According to Yesenia’s court testimony, Dan had said to her, “Yesenia, I can’t do it myself. In order for us to be together forever you’re going to have to help me.” Yesenia admitted to the stabbing and was given 35 years in prison. Dan received two life terms.

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