Despite having wealth and fame, no one is immune from suffering a family tragedy. These celebrities understand all too well the current climate of the country as they too were affected by gun violence after a relative was shot or killed.
In 2008, Jennifer Hudson lost several family members to gun violence. Her brother-in-law William Balfour killed her mother, brother and seven-year-old nephew. He was reportedly upset that his estranged wife Julia, the famous singer’s sister, had been seeing another man. Four years later, Balfour was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences plus an additional 120 years.
Niecy Nash makes millions of people laugh now but her life hasn’t always been full of laughs. When she was 15 years old, she watched her mother get shot. Luckily she survived and the tragic experience strengthened the bond between mother and daughter. However, when her 16-year-old brother was shot several years later, he didn’t make it. He was killed three months before graduating high school and Nash honored the memory of her slain brother with a tattoo on her back that bears his name.
Sofia Vergara’s brother was killed in 1996 in a hail of bullets but his killers were never brought to justice. Rafael Jose Vergara was 27 years old when he was shot dead in Columbia. “We come from a successful family, and he knew he was a target for kidnapping,” the “Modern Family” star said in an interview. “He always had bodyguards. Then one day he went out alone and was shot dead. I was devastated.”
Venus and Serena Williams
Venus and Serena Williams grew up on the rough streets of Compton, CA. Tennis provided the girls an outlet and it helped them escape their hometown. Unfortunately gun violence claimed their big sister Yetunde Price in 2003. She was driving her SUV in Compton along with her boyfriend, who was sitting in the passenger seat, when she was shot in the head in a drive-by shooting. Price died at the hospital; police believed her boyfriend was the intended target.
2011 was a great year for Nicki Minaj but she also faced some family tragedy. While on the “Femme Fatale” tour with Britney Spears, she learned that her cousin was shot to death. Twenty-seven-year-old Nicholas Telemaque was found with multiple gunshot wounds to his body in Brooklyn, NY. He was rushed to Kings County Hospital and was pronounced dead on arrival. Telemaque was reportedly on his way home after leaving a nightclub several blocks away.
For many rappers, music is an escape to a better life. Juvenile wanted to leave a life of drugs and crime behind but unfortunately his 4-year-old daughter became a victim of gun violence at the hands of her older half-brother. Anthony Tyrone Terrell also murdered his mother and 11-year-old sister. The Cash Money rapper received a lot of backlash for skipping his daughter’s funeral but he insisted that he didn’t want to go and draw additional media attention. Terrell was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences.
Bill Cosby experienced pain that no parent should have to go through in 1997 when his son Ennis was killed while changing a flat tire on the side of the road in an attempted robbery. The aspiring teacher was shot once in the temple and was pronounced dead at the scene. The gunman turned out to be an 18-year-old Ukraine immigrant. The legendary comedian took the death of his only son very hard and asked prosecutors not to seek the death penalty. Mikhail Markhasev is currently serving life without the possibility of parole.
When Dylan McDermott was just five years old he lost his mother. Diane McDermott’s death was originally ruled an accident but police later found enough evidence to file murder charges against her boyfriend John Sponza. He told police that Diane had picked up his gun while he was cleaning it and accidentally shot herself but they weren’t buying his story. Five years later Sponza, who reportedly had mob ties, was killed and stuffed into the trunk of a car.
In 2011, Omarosa Manigault’s brother Jack Manigault was murdered in a deadly lovers’ quarrel. The 40-year-old was shot dead as he was sleeping in bed next to his 34-year-old girlfriend. Cops believed her ex-boyfriend, Marco Cardenas, allegedly broke into the home and shot Jack. Cardenas pled guilty and was sentenced to at least 21 years in prison. It wasn’t the first family tragedy for the “Celebrity Apprentice” star. Her father was murdered when she was only 7 years old.
When Michael Jordan won the NBA Championship in 1994, he dedicated it to his father. James Jordan, Sr. was killed on July 23, 1993 after he pulled over to a rest stop to take a nap. Two men spotted the Lexus coupe and recognized the license plate “UNC0023” as the car purchased by the Chicago Bulls superstar. They shot the elder Jordan and stole his car along with the two championship rings that his son had given him. His body was found in a swamp a week and a half later.
In 1986, Patrick Duffy lost both of his parents. Marie and Terence Duffy were both killed during an armed robbery inside of a bar they owned in Montana. Their killers were just teenagers at the time. Kenneth Miller and Sean Wentz were convicted of the murders and were both sentenced to 75 years in prison. However, Wentz later admitted that he was the sole gunman and Miller was released on parole in 2007.
In 2012, wide receiver Kevin Ogletree had a breakout game against the New York Giants but his return to his hometown was bittersweet for the Dallas Cowboy. Several months earlier his brother Calvin was shot in the head following a dispute. The 25-year-old was approached by two men outside of his luxury car rental shop in Queens, NY, and an argument over money ensued. Calvin was left for dead but managed to survive the shooting. An arrest was made several months later.
In 1991, Charize Theron witnessed a murder that involved both of her parents. Her dad came home one night in a drunken rage with his brother and threatened to kill Theron and her mother Gerda. He fired a gun into the “Monster” star’s room and her mom grabbed a handgun of her own firing at the two men, killing him and wounding his brother. Gerda never faced prosecution because the attorney general ruled that she had acted in self-defense.