Deaths that were never investigated almost always involve mysterious circumstances, multiple theories, a lack of motive, and conspiracies. Many people involved in the entertainment industry died randomly of bizarre causes or took their own lives despite having the world at their feet - and some had a lot of enemies.
While some of these uninvestigated deaths are well-known, others have been confined to the Hollywood history books. There was the two-time Oscar nominee who was shot down during World War II, and whose records are still classified. There was also the actor who made dozens of films and was found dead of a suicide - despite being tied up and drawn all over. Yet another death not investigated was the rock star on the rise who was believed to have killed himself, except he'd been beaten up first.
Here are some deaths whose causes have never satisfactorily been investigated or who had investigations reopened only to find nothing new.
Best known for playing Ashley in Gone with the Wind, English actor Howard was a two-time Academy Award nominee for Best Actor. In 1943, Howard was on a flight from Lisbon, Portugal, back to the UK that was shot down by a flight of German bombers over the Bay of Biscay.
While the flight was a known civilian plane flying over undisputed water, the German planes went out of their normal operating path to shoot it down - leading to theories that Howard was targeted as a high-profile passenger whose death would demoralize England. Another theory held that German intelligence believed Winston Churchill himself was on the flight because Howard's manager was with Howard and the two men looked similar. Other theories state that British intelligence cracked a German plan to shoot down Howard's plane thinking it was Churchill's and allowed the flight to go ahead for fear the Germans would discover their codes had been broken.
With the war raging, it was impossible to conduct a thorough investigation of the attack. As Foreign Office files related to Howard's death are still classified, it's fallen to journalists to try to piece together what happened.
- Age: Dec. at 50 (1893-1943)
- Birthplace: Forest Hill, London, London, United Kingdom
Television's original Superman, George Reeves had fallen on hard times after the show ended and was having financial and career difficulties. In 1959, after a drunken argument with friends, including his fiancée, Reeves went upstairs in his house and shot himself in the head. The death was quickly ruled a suicide, but a number of circumstantial details led to a conspiracy theory: that Reeves was murdered by one of his houseguests.
The LAPD claimed the gun was too thickly oiled to find fingerprints, and gunshot residue testing wasn't typically done then. Beyond that, Reeves's mother refused to believe that her son killed himself, and many of the people in Reeves's orbit believed that he'd been killed by an ex-girlfriend named Toni Mannix, the wife of an MGM big shot. None of these theories were seriously investigated, and Reeves's death has officially remained a suicide.
- Age: Dec. at 45 (1914-1959)
- Birthplace: Woolstock, Iowa, USA
- Video: YouTube
In 1966, rocker Bobby Fuller was riding high from the success of his first Top 10 hit, "I Fought the Law." It would also be his last, as he was found dead in a car in LA on July 18 of that year. A cursory examination was done and concluded Fuller had killed himself by pouring gasoline on himself and sitting in a hot, sealed car. But the autopsy also showed signs that Fuller was beaten, and the boxes for both "accident" and "suicide" were checked on his intake form.
While some theories have put forth that Fuller was killed by the mob, Charles Manson, or the LAPD, a 2015 book put the blame on a much more plausible idea: LA's longtime police chief William Parker had died a few days earlier, and in the chaos that followed, a minor rock musician's death simply wasn't given the thorough investigation it merited. The case has never been reopened and likely never will.
- Age: Dec. at 23 (1942-1966)
- Birthplace: Baytown, Texas, USA
A character actor with over 70 film appearances, Albert Dekker also served a term in the California State Assembly and was blacklisted for a time due to his denunciation of Joe McCarthy. By 1968, his career was on the decline, and after being missing for a few days, he was found dead in his LA apartment by his fiancée.
Dekker was discovered naked, kneeling in his bathtub, bound by chains and leather thongs, with a noose tightly wrapped around his neck and looped around the curtain rod. He was also blindfolded with a scarf, handcuffed, had a ball gag in his mouth, and hypodermic needles sticking out of each arm. To add insult to the death, his body was defiled by someone who wrote homophobic slurs on it with lipstick, and camera equipment was missing.
Despite the fact that many of these actions would have been impossible to perform alone, Dekker's death was ruled a suicide - a conclusion so absurd that both the press and the coroner rejected it. Due to the sordid, possibly sexual nature of the crime, no further investigation was done, and it was written off as an accidental death from auto-erotic asphyxiation.
- Age: Dec. at 62 (1905-1968)
- Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States of America