Police concluded the 60’s musician committed suicide, but his family suspects he was murdered.

Smiling Bobby Fuller

Bobby Fuller

Bobby's lifless body laying across the front seats of his car with blood on his neck

Mysterious death scene

CASE DETAILS

On July 18, 1966, the lifeless body of a popular, young rock star was found in the front seat of his car in Hollywood, California. His name was Bobby Fuller. His band, The Bobby Fuller Four, hit it big when, “I Fought The Law” shot to the top of the charts. They were four country boys from El Paso and Bobby was the star. Randy Fuller is Bobby’s brother:

“They said he’d have been like Elvis Presley. Everybody that knew him would describe him as a musical genius.”

Bob Keane, owner & president, Del-Fi Records:

“Bobby was one of the most on-purpose musicians I’ve ever met in my life. He was gonna be it. He was gonna do it.”

Edna Gunderson, Pop Music Critic, USA Today:

“It was something that came from within him. And I think he was very driven from an early age. He was single-minded in the pursuit of music.”

A canister of gass on the passenger side floor of a car

Why was there gasoline at the crime scene?

When police suggested that Bobby Fuller committed suicide, it was the beginning of a mystery that continues to this day. Radio host Casey Kasem knew him well:

“When I heard Bobby was dead and that somebody had said he had committed suicide, I said, ‘That’s not the Bobby I know.’ I mean, here was a man who had everything to live for.”

Bobby Fuller was born with music in his blood. His idols were Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, and especially fellow Texan, Buddy Holly. When Bobby came to Hollywood and signed with Del-Fi Records, he seemed destined to be the next big star. By 1966, the band was headlining at hot spots across the country.

An autopsy report with question marks next to the words accident and suicide

The autopsy report was inconclusive

From the moment his body was discovered, police thought it was suicide, even though Bobby’s body was in full rigor mortis when they found him. This suggested that he had been dead for several hours. And according to Bobby’s mother, suicide just didn’t make sense. She also claimed that Bobby’s car had been gone all night and was still not there when she checked during the following day. It wasn’t until 5 P.M., when Bobby’s mother went to pick up the mail, that the car had mysteriously appeared with her son’s body inside. Edna Gunderson:

“The problem here is that dead men don’t drive cars, and that car got into that lot and Bobby did not drive it. So the question is, who did? Where did it come from? Why did they bring it back? Where did they go?”

The death scene itself was strange. There was blood on Bobby’s face and chest and on the car seat. His body and clothes were soaked with gasoline. On the floorboard, was a partly full gas can with a rubber hose attached to the spout. Bob Keane of Del-Fi Records arrived while police were still investigating:

“At about the same time I got there, the plain-clothes detective threw the can of gas in the dumpster. He said, ‘It’s just another rock and roll punk. He committed suicide or something like that.’ The police department didn’t do anything. They didn’t take prints. They didn’t ask any questions of anybody. It was just like he was a bum off the street.”

Young people surrounding a camp fure on a beach

Rumors of a drug overdose at a party

At first, it was thought that Bobby died after drinking gasoline. But the autopsy revealed no gasoline in his stomach. His death was then attributed to inhaling gasoline fumes.
According to Edna Gunderson, the coroner’s report had discrepancies:

“On one page, it’s marked an accident. On another page, there’s a question mark next to the word “accident”, and a question mark next to the word “suicide”. There was nothing conclusive to suggest that Bobby had committed suicide. The other unusual aspect of this case, was that Bobby looked as if he had been beaten up. Now, some of this could’ve been the result of the early decomposition of the body, or it could’ve been earlier injuries, bruises, what have you. But two or three people said that he had a broken finger and that there was blood on his shirt.”

Nothing seemed to point to suicide, but the police were insistent. Edna Gunderson says that an offhand remark made by Bobby’s mother led to the ruling:

“She did say that he had been upset in recent days. But she did not suggest that he had been depressed or despondent, as they had reported. And she was later very upset that they had concluded that he had committed suicide, because she believed that he was incapable of that.”

A mysterious person watching an apartment from his car

Was someone jealous of Bobby?

Those closest to Bobby admit that in the days leading up to his death, he was unhappy with Bob Keane and Del-Fi Records. Bob Keane responds:

“Buddy Holly was his God, and he wanted to play like Buddy Holly. And I was constantly saying, ‘No, don’t do that because you’re Bobby Fuller. You have your own talent.” We were at odds sometimes, in actually making the music, the record.”

But if it wasn’t suicide, was it murder? The answer may lie with a beautiful young woman known as Melody, someone Edna Gunderson says fuller kept a secret:

“Even Bobby’s closest friends and his mother didn’t really know much about her, except that he was occasionally seeing her. And it was very much a clandestine kind of affair.”

Some believe Bobby kept the affair secret because Melody’s boyfriend – who may have had ties to the mob – was still in the picture. Edna Gunderson:

“There was a very nefarious character in L.A. at the time who was operating a number of night clubs and he had a reputation for being a violent man. Melody was supposedly his girlfriend. Bobby did have a certain amount of affection for her and tried to see her occasionally. That’s all we know.”

Randy Fuller remembers that Bobby had planned to go to a party with Melody the night before he was found dead:

“Melody was gonna drive him there and introduce him to a lot of big time people. And he said that there’d probably be a lot of, you know, drinking and everything else going on. And I told him not to do anything that would get him in any trouble or anything. And he promised me he wouldn’t.”

What happened at the party is unknown, but soon after Bobby’s death, there were rumors of a drug overdose and a possible cover-up. Bob Keane said he heard the stories:

“I heard that Melody had turned Bobby on to doing acid a couple of times. One of the possibilities is that he was at a party with other celebrities and something happened. An accident, possibly or a fight. Of course, they didn’t want to be involved with it, these celebrities. So somebody said, ‘Well look, let’s make it look like suicide.’”

However, there were no drugs in Bobby’s system. And no one could explain why he was doused with gasoline or how the car got back to his apartment. Randy Fuller:

“My mother went to her grave with a broken heart. And I hurt every day over this. Somebody out there knows something and I just wish I could know.”

Update:

After the initial broadcast of this story, Unsolved Mysteries received a call from the mysterious woman known as Melody. She confirmed many of the facts we presented in our story, but she disagreed with two important details.

First, she says she was never involved with anyone who had ties to the mob. And second, she insists that she was not with Bobby the night he died and that she has no knowledge of the alleged party. She also believes that Bobby did not commit suicide.

More recently, the cause of Bobby’s death was officially changed from suicide to accident. His family would like to exhume his body, in hopes that new technology might be able to solve the mystery of his death.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season nine with Robert Stack and in season six with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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46 Comments

  1. Claire

    Rest in peace!

    Reply

  2. Richard Fuller

    Sniffing gasoline is for children in a small town, not recording artists in a big town like LA. Everything is available here, now and then.
    The music industry is a dangerous place.

    Reply

  3. Mark

    Fuller.could of pissed off the wrong people over his music? I mean he was a genius in waiting….mobsters were seen at Jim Reese’s apartment only 2,days after july18….1966

    Reply

    • Ray V

      I’m kinda convinced a rock-and-roll hating parent definitely abducted and murdered Bobby just because of his/her hatred of rock and roll.

      Reply

  4. Idk

    My thoughts, he was at the party with hi ranking celebrities, BS on toxicology report everyone did something then nobody was clean. Fell down or injured himself drove home (maybe with someone) got the gas out tried to place at his nose while inhaling the fumes passed out. Gas spilled all over himself while trying to sniff gas. Passed out on the seat and never woke up. The End!!!! Yes it’s a shame but good kids do bad things that’s life.

    Reply

  5. Ray L

    The man who had the distribution deal with DelFi was a known thug who used mob tactics on artists. Looks like he had him murdered and they planned to burn the car. Somebody drove up and they left the scene. No investigation is inexcusable. Thanks to LAPD, no one will ever know but the killer (s). Long dead now.

    Reply

    • Robert Brunswick Jr

      Yes indeed. The whole situation is very hinky. I’ve always believed the mob aspect. It certainly seems possible that the [murderer] was scared off mid-crime.. However, return to the scene and then drive his car to his apartment? Unless, there was someone else involved with the crime that stopped the further commission of said crime, motivated by guilt, or just keeping to the initial plan which may have been to make it look like accidental death or suicide.

      I don’t know if there was ever an investigation into his music business dealings. Perhaps he was trying a power play in order to earn more from his talent. Perhaps he was just too passionate about how he wanted to record his tunes and the record company got pissed. But why kill him over those things?

      Ahhhh.. I could go on speculating in paragraphs and chapters, but that’s all it is.. speculation.

      Reply

  6. Anonymous

    If you see one case you have seen them all. Hank Williams Sr. is a similar case. They don’t sell alcohol after 2am. Some people will get really desperate for it. I’ve heard of people drinking mouth wash. Some people will even go to a shampoo container like a babies bottle. You can’t just swallow large amounts of gasoline. Trying to can make you vomit blood. Which is what appears to have happened in this case. One time I tried to siphon gas from an old car I had that broke down. It wasn’t so easy. It was too much air to try it. I ended up selling it with a full tank of gas. That stuff can really make you sick.

    Reply

  7. Angela

    I was a huge fan of Bobby Fuller in my teens and was heartbroken when he died. I always believed he was murdered, especially after reading the book “i Fought the Law”. I think he was worth more dead than alive to somebody. Also, the police really botched the investigation and were’t interested in solving the crime. Perhaps they knew it was best to just not get involved. So sad. His poor mother went to her grave not knowing the truth. I wish this case could be solved. I think Bobby’s brother and band members have an idea what happened, but were afraid to talk about it.

    Reply

  8. David P Carroll

    R.I.P Bobby Fuller god bless.

    Reply

  9. Captain

    I’m a retired Deputy Sheriff. Every Wednesday and Friday we transported inmates to San Quentin State Prison. Enroute I played “I fought the law and the law won” for them. I got a lot of disparaging remarks “F*** You Dep”. Bobby lives on !

    Reply

  10. Rich

    Mystery been mulled through decades before the show aired it. Most of us believe mobsters took him out, not because of the bimbo he was going out with but because of his manager Bob Keane and the money he owed.

    Who knows maybe Bobby saw or had words with some of them and Bob’s secrets came out and Bobby argued with Keane. I believe Keane is the key here as his company and ties to some figures in organized crime let alone the fact he was losing and owed money may have been a reason Bobby was seen as a liability or a message to Keane.

    Reply

  11. Ryan Mackey

    I think the real reason the case wasn’t solved was because the police botched the investigation. That’s just my personal opinion though.

    Reply

    • Anonymous

      The Los Angeles detectives where very good back then. They even made a tv show called Dragnet because of them. They were next to the Scotland Yard for world rankings.

      Reply

      • Anonymoose

        The LAPD police chief had died two days prior and the department was in disarray at the time of Bobby’s death, so it was botched, but only because of highly unusual circumstances

        Reply

        • Anonymous

          Was he related to Larry H. Parker? (The most famous lawyer in Los Angeles.) They were very prestigious people. I’m not saying they were perfect. No one is. They could have been wrong.

          Reply

        • Rmp

          The LAPD Chief died only two (2) days prior to the Fuller murder?
          How weirdly convenient for someone…

          Reply

  12. Julia

    I believe that bobby fuller was murdered i do not believe that bobby fuller commit suicide i believe that bobby fuller was murdered i do not if he was murdered than why was his car found in the park lunt of is home

    Reply

  13. Johnny

    I’d like to see this Bobby Fuller case solved soon. 53 years now and memories fade plus other witnesses have passed away. Most of the attendees at the party would be in their 70’s or 80’s now. It’s possible someone getting in their 80’s or terminally ill will reveal the story. Clear their conscience before God. It seems that this case can be solved with some dogged detective work and interviews. They might have to become creative to solve the case with a large monetary reward or Immunity from Prosecution. Bobby Fuller and his friends and families deserve answers and the truth.

    Reply

  14. Exhumation Already?

    Wondering if anyone from family would care to update us on if they completed exhumation already or not, and what was found? I don’t know how people could be so silly to comment that it was stupid for the cops to throw the gas can away! The second I saw this- my first thought was that they were covering up evidence for whomever was involved (this was Hollywood era of the 60’s after all) It’s a shame no further updates were provided and so many people were left without closure in his circle.

    Reply

  15. Karen

    I’m glad they changed it from suicide to accidental, I say it was a homicide.This is the most unfortunate thing that could ever happen! I just hope they can investigate it right and can find out exactly what happened.

    Reply

  16. Music lover

    There really is no mystery. Bobby Fuller died from inhaling gas fumes. It wasn’t suicide or murder, it was an accident. His brother Randy has admitted that they had sniffed gas before to get high. Sniffing gas can kill you. Even if it was Bobby’s first time it was also his last. There are better ways to get high. Rest in peace Bobby you were one of the greats.

    Reply

  17. Anonymous

    Hey!, Just a minute. isn’t that Casey Kasem?, the original voice of Shaggy in Scooby Doo?

    Reply

  18. I was their

    I can not say much but I watch the episode today on TV. It shocked me too see it is still be investigated. Most of the people involved are dead and yes the cops were payed to cover it up. He was dead before the car was brought back to his moms. He was murder at the party that took place that night. The person whom did it has already talked with you but has lied about certain parts.

    Reply

    • Hello

      You were there? You mean at the party?

      Reply

      • Lynn

        Im gonna assume This person was not there. If they were, they wouldnt bother commenting on a section part. they would have gone to the police and had the case reopened. It’s sad people like that always seem to have information but only comment on a site but won’t go an actually submit the information.#keyboardcoward

        Reply

    • Truth

      You liar

      Reply

  19. Johnny

    I’m surprised the Bobby Fuller case has not been solved. Usually, somebody has loose lips and cracks over time because of guilt or poor health. So far, the secret has been locked in the vault for 50 years. Fuller had a close inner circle of family, friends and musicians. I would start there and work outside from that circle. Sure, 50 yrs later memories fade and some have died but it is worth another look.

    Reply

  20. jennifur sun

    I hope they find out as well. liked his guitar playing and his music. always felt sorry for his family. for some reason i think the police had an idea about who it might have been, and that is why they threw away the can and didn’t really dig into his death. i have read and heard thta back in that time period they were really corrupt. please keep us all posted. and yes the late Kasey K was the voice of Shaggy

    Reply

  21. Johnny

    Bobby Fuller was a musical talent and his death a tremendous loss to his family and to music. He would probably be in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame and a legend now if he had not been killed. Let’s look at theories: Suicide unlikely since the car had to be driven. No depression or talks of suicide. Ready for stardom.Kidnapping? No way…No ransom note plus the offender drove the car back to the house. Makes no sense. Accidental Drug Overdose? No. Toxicology report no drugs in Fuller’s system. That leaves the murder scenario. It doesn’t look like a professional hit more likely an amateur. They panicked leaving the gas can and bringing body back to his place. The most likely scenario that a small party with a few actor and musician types were present. An argument ensued at the party and Fuller probably was trying to be the peacemaker. He could have been struck and fallen unconscious. There was probably a discussion what to do. My guess instead of taking Bobby to the hospital the 2 party people panicked and left him to die. They returned to set the car on fire but were interrupted and decided to do a quick staging of the scene. Then, they found Bobby’s keys and drove it to Bobby’s house and left in another car.

    Reply

    • Robert Visconti

      I agree with you John. I believe a couple youngers guys frpm his home town came out and roughed him up out of revenge, but accidentally killed him and panicked through rest of it. A pro would have torched the car somewhere else. This indicates that they either thought he was just knocked out or they wanted his family to see him dead, which would make this personal. He probably got a young girl pregnant, and her father and brothers came to take care of business. Sad end to a great entertainer.

      Reply

  22. Wow. What a cutie.

    It sounds suspicious in the extreme. Forensics were so bad in the 1960’s and 1970’s. I am confident that the murderer wouldn’t have walked free if this had happened now rather than 1966. I wonder if any of the people charged with murder from this era are truly guilty given the incompetency of murder investigations prior to the past 20 years. He was beautiful. I suspect raging jealousy as a motive.

    Reply

  23. J D

    the police really blew it There was all kinds of potential evidence that they could have gathered had the ambition or interest in solving this mystery. Throwing away the gas can was monumental. They could still retrieve the car and check it out. That is a real long shot but you don’t know if you don’t try

    Reply

    • Brian

      Has the family done their own investigation? The body is the best evidence. Sounds like a sketchy at best autopsy was done. Did they plook any further?
      The car is the second best piece of evidence.
      Who ended up with it?
      In reality its to soon into a real investigation to make any declarative statements about cause of death etc.

      Reply

    • Rmp

      His desire to break with his record company angered powerful men in the industry. Most likely the “lawmen” were paid off to confirm that a murder was a suicide.

      Reply

  24. Anonymous

    I agree. Exhume him (if the family agrees). No body commits suicide by pouring gasoline on themselves! You can die from inhaling fumes, but that does not fit the picture. And the car not being there until his body is in full rigor Mortis? That’s at least 12 hours after death. And you don’t drive a car with your head in the drivers seat. My heart goes out to the family, especially his poor mother.

    Reply

  25. Mark Renfroe

    I hope Bobby Fullers family will have his body exhumed. A tremendous number of cold cases sre solved today due to new advanced forensic technology. They have nothing to lose in doing so. Please keep your viewers updated on if and when an exhumation tskes place, and it is reopened as a murder case.

    Reply

  26. Maureen O'Brien

    I have followed this since 1966. I’m glad the suicide reason was dropped. I hope the family can exhume his body and find the real reason that he died. That is a great idea since we’ve come a long way since 1966. Please let us fans know what REALLY happened. Thank you.

    Reply

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