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