Brynn had Issues: The murder of Phil Hartman
In the course of his tragically short life, Phil Hartman had a remarkably successful career. He was a star on NBC’s "Saturday Night Live" and "NewsRadio," and a popular voice-over artist on Fox’s "The Simpsons."
Hartman married Lisa Strain in 1983, but the marriage failed after two years. Then, in the mid-’80s, Hartman met an aspiring actress Brynn Omdahl who already had a history of addiction to cocaine and alcohol. Regardless, Hartman married her in 1987.
After 11 years, the couple had two children, Phil Hartman’s career skyrocketed but the marriage was troubled.
Brynn became hooked on narcotics and alcohol and entered rehab several times. On Mother’s Day 1997, Brynn high and Hartman insisted she enter rehab which she did but left after several days. She almost immediately backslid into heavy alcohol and cocaine use. Her mood swings increased and the Zoloft she was prescribed only seemed to agitate her, possibly because she was mixing it with alcohol. The fights increased and Hartman would arrive on set with scratches on his face or disheveled after staying the night on his boat after another epic argument with his wife. Shortly before he was murdered, Hartman told his mother he was “out of my mind” with concern about Brynn and said that he told her if she returned in that state again, he would take their kids and leave.
Hartman's friend and former SNL colleague Jon Lovitz accused Hartman's former NewsRadio co-star Andy Dick of re-introducing Brynn to cocaine, causing her to relapse and suffer a nervous breakdown. Dick claims to have known nothing of her condition. Further, Lovitz said that in 2006, Dick had approached him at a restaurant and said, "I put the Phil Hartman hex on you; you're the next one to die."
Lovitz and Hartman
But it was more than the addiction that tore the marriage apart. Brynn had mental health issues and she was extremely insecure and easily thrown into fits of hysteria.
A friend alleged that Brynn "had trouble controlling her anger ... She got attention by losing her temper".
Cassandra Peterson, better known as "Elvira, Mistress of the Dark” said that Hartman and Brynn “….fought a lot. I don't know what the problems were. I have suspicions." and added that she tried to discourage Hartman from marrying her, calling Brynn "a very troubled person with a lot of problems."
A friend said that “something was wrong with Brynn and her husband knew it. She was a failed actress who deeply resented [Phil's] success, and as he became more and more successful, their relationship became more and more contentious."
Hartman's second wife, Lisa Strain, alleged that Brynn was pathologically jealous of other women. When Lisa sent a congratulatory card to Hartman and Brynn on the birth of their son, Brynn sent back a four-page letter blasting her for trying to steal away her husband and threatening to kill her. Lisa called Hartman, who joked about it "You should have seen the letter she wanted to write."
As Hartman’s fame grew, Brynn became more jealous and controlling, even erupting with anger when he received fan mail, and threw violent, “object-throwing temper tantrums.” Increasingly, Brynn would time her arguments to explode just before Saturday “SNL” dress rehearsals.
On the evening of May 27, 1998, Brynn met a friend for drinks, discussing her career disappointments while downing two Cosmos and half a beer. At 10:15, she went to the home of an old friend named Ron Douglas. She complained about Hartman’s frequent absences, saying his preference for hanging out with other friends made her feel like “dirt” and bemoaning that his constant marijuana smoking left him “out of it” much of the time. She also drank three more beers. When she left at 12:45, Douglas felt she did not seem especially intoxicated.
When she arrived at her home, at about 1:00 AM, she got into a loud and heated argument with Hartman which ended with Hartman telling her that he would leave her if she was taking drugs again, and at that, he walked out of the room and went to their bedroom and eventually fell asleep. Hartman's lawyer said the couple had a conspicuous "pattern of arguing at night" and that Hartman "would go to sleep and everything would be OK in the morning."
At about 3 AM Brynn, coked-up and drunk, took the couples .38 caliber pistol…. Hartman had an affinity for guns and had a large collection….walked into the bedroom and standing less than two feet away from a sleeping Hartman, she shot him. Once between the eyes, once in the throat, and once in the upper chest. He died instantly from the last shot.
About an hour later, at 3:23, still drunk and high, Brynn called her longtime friend Ron Douglas and told him that Phil wasn’t home, that she didn’t want to be alone and that she would like to come back over.
Twenty minutes later she arrived at Douglas home wearing a long-sleeved pullover T-shirt, white pajama bottoms, and light-colored argyle socks and no shoes. She stumbled into the house, tried to sit on the couch but slipped and fell to the floor where she stayed. She babbled about having killed Hartman and then passed out. Douglas woke her, walked her to the bathroom where she vomited several times. In one of the time frames when she was awake she told that she had killed Hartman and how she did it. They two eventually drove over to the Hartman where Douglas found Phil Hartman's bloody body and called the police. The police arrived at about 7:00 AM and escorted Douglas and the Hartman’s' two children from the premises, by which time Brynn had locked herself in the bedroom with Hartman’s corpse.
Five cops, weapons drawn, waited outside the bedroom where Brynn is moaning, crying and screaming into a pillow. She called her sister Kathy and asked her to watch over her children “Just let them know how much I love them. Tell Mom . . .”
One of the cops in the hallway called on her name and she whispered into the phone “I gotta go” and hung up.
She sat upright in the bed next to her husband’s corpse, leaned her head back on the headboard and placed the Charter Arms .38-caliber and inserted its two- inch barrel into her mouth and fired, killing herself.