Rebecca Lucile Schaeffer was born November 6, 1967
in Eugene, Oregon, the only child of parents Benson and
Danna Schaeffer. Growing up Rebecca was a curious and
spirited child who loved horseback riding and being
outdoors. In high school Rebecca was an honor student
and served on student council. She loved writing poetry
and was deeply immersed in her jewish faith.
In 1982 Rebecca began to pursue modeling and signed
with local talent agent Nannette Troutman. She soon
appeared in department store catalogs and on television
commercials. In August 1984 her parents gave Rebecca
permission to move to New York City by herself to
pursue a career in modeling.
Soon thereafter Rebecca landed an acting role on the
ABC daytime soap 'One Life To Live'. During the same
time she continued looking for modeling jobs. She
struggled to find work and realized that at 5'7 she just
wasn't tall enough to be a fashion model. In 1985 she
moved to Japan hoping her height would not be an issue
but she still struggled.
acting instead of modeling and in 1986 she landed a role
in 'Radio Days' (directed by Woody Allen). Unfortunately,
her scenes were deleted from the film. She then
received a phone call from her agent that television
producers in Hollywood were interested in casting her
in a new sitcom 'My Sister Sam' starring Pam Dawber.
Rebecca flew out to Los Angeles where she tested and
won the part of Patricia "Patti" Russell.
While working on the television show Rebecca lived with
Pam Dawber and her then boyfriend (and future husband)
actor Mark Harmon. In the beginning 'My Sister Sam' was
a hit show. Due to her new found success and fame she
landed the March 1987 cover of 'Seventeen Magazine'.
She also began receiving a large amount of fan mail
which she would respond to herself. Throughout this all,
Rebecca remained humble and down to earth.
Upon returning to NYC her agent advised her to pursue
During the second season ratings for the show began to
tumble and after only ten episodes the show was cancelled.
Soon after that, Rebecca decided it was time to find her own
place. She found an apartment in the Fairfax District of West
After 'My Sister Sam' Rebecca was cast in the TV movie 'Out
Of Time' followed by two films 'Scenes From The Class
Struggle In Beverly Hills' and 'The End Of Innocence'. In 1989
Rebecca had returned from Italy having just completed filming
the television movie 'Voyage Of Terror: The Achille Lauro
Affair'. It was soon after her return to Los Angeles that a tragic
and senseless act would end Rebecca's career... and her life.
On July 18, 1989 Rebecca was preparing to audition for a role
in 'The Godfather Part III'. She was awaiting the delivery of a
script prior to her meeting with director Francis Ford Coppola.
At approximately 10:00AM the buzzer to her apartment rang
and Rebecca went to the door (the intercom was not working
that day). When she opened the door a man, who had been at
her residence an hour earlier, appeared suddenly from hiding
and shot her once in the chest. She collapsed in the doorway
while the assailant fled the scene. Thirty minutes later she
was declared dead at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
The assailant (later determined to be an obsessed fan) was
arrested by police in Tucson, Arizona, after motorists reported
a man, possibly suicidal, running through traffic. Upon his
arrest he confessed to the murder of Rebecca Schaeffer.
In 1991 the confessed killer was convicted of capital murder
and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Her parents were present throughout the legal process.
Rebecca Lucile Schaeffer was laid to rest on July 23, 1989 at
the Ahavai Sholom Cemetery in Portland, Oregon.
Rebecca's death prompted changes to the law including the
prevention of someone's personal address from being
disclosed through the Department of Motor Vehicles (which
is how the killer was able to find Rebecca). Positive changes
that undoubtedly prevented similar tragedies, but
unfortunately it all came at such a terrible price.