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

Bobby Fuller

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.”

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.

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.”

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.”

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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19 Comments

  1. Avatar

    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

  2. Avatar

    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

  3. Avatar

    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

  4. Avatar

    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

  5. Avatar

    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

  6. Avatar

    Anonymous

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

    Reply

  7. Avatar

    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

    • Avatar

      Hello

      You were there? You mean at the party?

      Reply

      • Avatar

        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

  8. Avatar

    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

  9. Avatar

    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

  10. Avatar

    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

    • Avatar

      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

  11. Avatar

    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

  12. Avatar

    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

  13. Avatar

    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

  14. Avatar

    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

  15. Avatar

    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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