On July 18, 1989, an unspeakable tragedy shook the nation.
On that day, My Sister Sam star Rebecca Schaeffer was shot and killed by a crazed stalker. She was only 21.
Thirty years later, Rebecca’s untimely death is still fresh in the minds of her fans and those who knew her personally. A new ABC 20/20 documentary about the case features those who were personally and deeply affected by it, including the young actress’ parents, the prosecutor who made sure Becky's killer is locked up for life, and her friend and co-star Pam Dawber.
Pam remembers Rebecca
Pam and Rebecca hit it off right away when they met on the set of My Sister Sam. They soon became friends in real life, and Pam took on the role of Rebecca’s mentor.
Pam, who was already an established actress, helped Rebecca in any way she could. Life in LA was completely new to the rising star, so Pam helped her learn the ropes. Rebecca even lived with Pam and her then-boyfriend Mark Harmon (who later became Pam's husband) until she found her own place.
Pam recalled how she and Becky became like sisters during that time:
We just kind of fell into this sisterly thing. Cause I’d had a sister. My sister passed when she was 22 and I was 25. And so having another young girl in the house was something I was very comfortable with. It was good for us. … [And] I was thrilled that she was getting to really, really enjoy… a big show biz life.
When Rebecca found a place to live, Pam worried about her inexperienced friend and tried to warn her about the possible dangers. The actress recalled:
The one thing we did say to her, though: ‘You never put your real name on your mailbox, Rebecca.’… And she didn’t listen to that.
And that made it easier for Rebecca’s ruthless killer to hunt her down. Pam recalled how angry she was about his being able to get Becky’s address so easily.
Another thing Pam can’t get out of her mind is Becky’s parents’ unbearable anguish:
Her parents were so… brilliant in the way they handled it. It’s almost like, ‘How did they survive it?’
After the tragedy happened, Pam felt like she lost a sister. She found it incredibly hard to come to terms with Becky’s passing, and thinking about the things she could have done to save her made it even harder.
Pam recalled how all these feelings weighed down on her:
I [had guilt] for years because I was so devastated, as everyone else was as well. I thought of Rebecca every day of my life probably for about two years. But I couldn’t keep diving in… I almost had to let my relationship with her parents go. There’s something just so painful about the thought… I hadn’t spoken to them since her death and possibly funeral, and I have felt guilty about that for all those years.
Rebecca is not forgotten
Like Pam Dawber, Rebecca’s fans still can’t get over her passing. Although it happened 30 years ago, many still remember it like it was yesterday.
Here are a few emotional comments from Twitter:
But what we really need to remember is that Rebecca’s death was not in vain. The resonance her case gained ultimately contributed to tighter gun control laws and to stalking being made a serious punishable offence.