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21 True-Crime-Meets-Pop-Culture Moments People Still To This Day Cannot Believe Actually Happened

Recently, Reddit user lammastide posed the question, "What is a true crime/pop culture moment that makes you go I can’t believe that f*cking happened?" to the folks over at r/popculturechat. And their responses were both shocking and tragic. Check it out:

Warning: Mentions of sexual assault, murder, and suicide ahead.

1."John Hinckley Jr. shooting the President to impress Jodie Foster. It sounds like a Mad Lib."

Several men in a chaotic scene with one lying on the ground, others standing with concerned expressions. A car is in the background
Several men in a chaotic scene with one lying on the ground, others standing with concerned expressions. A car is in the background
Mugshot of Hinckley holding a nameplate with identifying information
Mugshot of Hinckley holding a nameplate with identifying information

Hulton Archive / Getty Images, Donaldson Collection / Getty Images

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What happened: On March 30, 1981, John Hinckley Jr. attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan. Hinckley shot Reagan as he left a Hilton Hotel in Washington, DC, and also wounded a police officer, Secret Service agent, and critically White House Press Secretary James Brady who became paralyzed and died as a result of his injuries in 2014.

Famously, Hinckley said his motive was to "impress" actress Jodie Foster, whom he'd become obsessed with after seeing her in the film Taxi Driver. In fact, even before shooting Reagan, Hinckley had spent some time stalking Foster, hand-delivering her letters and calling her.

Hinckley was released from institutional psychiatric care in 2016, and then fully "released without conditions" in 2022.

2."An episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm was used to prove a man's innocence in court after a 16-year-old was killed. The guy was at the Dodgers stadium with his 6-year-old daughter during the time of the murder."

A person stands facing a crowd where some audience members are smiling and looking towards the camera; timecode overlay is present

3."The news that actor Anton Yelchin had been crushed to death by his own Jeep was shocking. Still is."

Anton Yelchin in a suit at an event, looking towards the camera

4."The nightclub fire after Great White used indoor pyrotechnics with a low ceiling."

Aerial view of a burned-down structure with firefighters and a crane amidst debris

5."The Jinx hot mic moment is still so wild to me. It was a documentary about Robert Durst. I nearly crawled out of my skin at that moment!! I was so creeped out I couldn’t sleep that night. Always recommend this one to anyone looking for a good true-crime documentary."

Robert Durst with hands covering his face in a gesture of despair or fatigue

6."Christina Grimmie's murder. I grew up watching her as a YouTuber/cover artist. She wasn't super popular, but she was always so kind to her fans, so it really felt like she was this personal, comforting presence in my childhood. When I heard of the shooting, I genuinely couldn't believe it. I think about her and her family often. Her brother is an absolute hero. I hope he and his father are doing alright after losing Christina and later her mother to cancer."

Closeup of Christina Grimmie singing

7."Danny Masterson being found guilty of rape AND actually receiving real-world consequences!"

Masterson in a suit with a woman in a polka dot dress walking outdoors. He holds a drink

8."Pregnant Sharon Tate and her friends murdered by members of the Manson family cult. The word 'PIG' was written in Tate's blood at the front door. Polanski was interviewed and allowed himself to be photographed next to it."

Newspaper headline about actress Sharon Tate's tragic passing with her photo
Newspaper headline about actress Sharon Tate's tragic passing with her photo
Charles Manson being escorted by police
Charles Manson being escorted by police

New York Daily News / NY Daily News via Getty Images, Sahm Doherty / Getty Images

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What happened: Tate, who was eight and a half months pregnant, and four friends were murdered by members of the Manson Family cult on August 9, 1969. The brutal killings happened in a home that was being rented by Tate and her husband Roman Polanski, who was in London at the time.

The three main people who actually committed the Tate murders, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Tex Watson, were all sentenced to death. Atkins died in prison in 2009. Krenwinkel is still serving time in California, with Governor Gavin Newsom blocking her parole as recently as October 2022. Watson is also still serving time at a correctional facility in San Diego and was denied parole (for the 18th time) in December 2021.

9."Roman Polanski is another absolute shit show of a story, he assaulted a child after getting her drunk. What a guy."

Polanski surrounded by reporters holding microphones, speaking at an event

10."The death of Brian Wells. He was a pizza delivery guy who was forced to rob a bank with a bomb strapped to his neck. The bomb detonated and killed him."

Black and white security footage showing someone at a counter with text "Is anyone hurt?"

11."As a little girl growing up in Houston, I got to see Selena perform at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in February 1995. About a month later, she was gunned down and murdered by Yolanda Saldivar. I can’t capture how massive this loss was for the Tejano music community. I remember my group of friends sobbing during lunch over her murder."

Selena in sparkly bell-bottoms and crop top performs onstage

12."The death of River Phoenix outside the Viper Room, and just the fact that there were so many famous people there that night."

A portrait of River Phoenix with medium-length hair, wearing a plaid shirt

13."Casey Anthony being found not guilty."

Anthony in court with striped attire, seated, appears in a conversational moment

14."The death of Diana, Princess of Wales, was unlike any other event. She went from being endless tabloid fodder with every type of speculation about her love life to a 'tragic English Rose' overnight. The Sunday she died and the following week were the most surreal of my life. And I didn't even live in England."

Newspaper headlines from various sources announcing the death of Princess Diana

15."The actress Dominique Dunne, who played the older sister Dana in Poltergeist, was strangled to death on her front driveway by her abusive stalker ex-boyfriend. The movie was supposed to be her breakthrough role. The murderer only served three and a half years in prison before he was released."

Closeup of Dominique Dunne

16."Phil Hartman being murdered by his wife after she got cocaine from Andy Dick."

Phil Hartman in glasses making a surprised expression wears a cap and a jacket with raindrops

17."For me the death of Naya Rivera in truly bizarre circumstances. This woman single-handedly changed my life as a young lesbian desperately seeking affirmation, and I was glued to social media during the few days when she was missing but her body had not yet been found. I am still devastated about her death and the trauma her son must be going through. To add to the weirdness of the situation, her body was found on the anniversary of her castmate Cory Monteith’s death by OD seven years earlier. A third castmate of theirs also died by suicide after being charged with possession of child sexual abuse images. The Glee curse has ensured that I will likely never watch the show again, despite it being a central part of my teenage years, it’s just too upsetting."

Memorial photos of Naya Rivera with flowers and messages on a fence

18."Francis Ford Coppola’s oldest son, Gian-Carlo, was killed in a boating accident by actor Griffin O’Neal (son of actor Ryan O’Neal, brother to actress Tatum O’Neal). He was just 22 years old, and his fiancé was pregnant. Griffin basically decapitated him due to drunken negligence; it was horrific. And then he only had to pay a $200 fine and do 400 hours of community service."

Francis and Gian-Carlo posing on a red carpet in suits

19."Natalie Wood’s death. There are so many weird circumstances, and the whole thing has always seemed so tragic to me."

Wood seated on a couch, looking pensive. She wears a patterned outfit

20."Judith Barsi’s death. She was a child actor in the '80s who voiced Ducky in the first The Land Before Time (1988) movie and Anne-Marie in All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989). She and her mom were both murdered by her abusive dad, and he later killed himself after he killed them. Her story is extremely sad."

Two adults and two children posing for a family-style photo with a homey background

21.Finally: "For me, it's O.J. writing a book called If I Did It after the fact."

OJ in a courtroom; wears a suit, trying on gloves as others observe

Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.