Paul Snider, who was known as “the Jewish pimp”, died by suicide after killing his estranged wife, Dorothy Stratten, in Los Angeles, California. He used a 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun in the murder-suicide.
Snider and Stratten had a brief marriage that started immediately after her success with Playboy magazine. Snider discovered Stratten working at a Dairy Queen in Vancouver, British Columbia, where they both lived. He later arranged for professional photographs of Stratten and sent them into Playboy for its Playmate search. He proposed immediately after she secured the deal, according to a 1980 article from The Village Voice. Snider was 29 when he died. Stratten was 20.
Stratten had reservations about marrying Snyder, and asked her friends for advice. He continued to “press” her, telling her they secured “a lifetime bargain.” They were married June 1, 1979, in Las Vegas, Nevada, only 16 months before Snider killed Stratten and himself.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Snider Acted Erratically in the Days Leading up to the Murder-Suicide
Paul Snider suspected his marriage to Dorothy Stratten was unraveling and believed she was having an affair with Director Peter Bogdanovich. He even hired a private investigator to follow her. Friends said Snider was despondent after the collapse of his marriage. But his behavior in the short time before her death was even more concerning, according to The Village Voice, which reported on Snider’s death in 1980.
Stratten agreed to meet Snider August 8 for lunch, less than one week before he killed her. He told friends he was sure they were going to reconcile. However, Stratten told Snider at lunch she was in love with Bogdanovich, and wanted to discuss a financial settlement. She took the clothes she wanted from the home they once shared, and told him to give the rest away.
“Having his hopes raised so high and then dashed again gave Snider a perverse energy,” The Village Voice reported. “Those who saw him in the five days prior to the murder caught only glimpses of odd behavior. In retrospect they appeared to form a pattern of intent. He was preoccupied with guns.”
He also made references to Playmates being killed, actresses dying with a movie in progress and actresses dying before their film airs, the publication said.
Stratten and Snider were separated in May of 1980, less than one year after their marriage, according to an August 15, 1980 article from the Los Angeles Times. As Stratten gained financial success and success in the film industry, their marriage became strained.
Meanwhile, Stratten was unfazed by her own success, her business manager told the newspaper in an article published the following day.
“Stratten’s business manager, Robert Houston, described the young actress as serious-minded but friendly, with her head unturned by success,” the article said. “‘She had everything going for her,’ Houston said, “but she was living a cautious financial life. It was a dream come true, but she was not caught up by the lights of Hollywood.'”
She began filming They All Laughed around the time of their separation. The couple had also been going to marriage counseling, the article said.
2. Snider Hired a Private Investigator to Follow Stratten to Look for Evidence of a Contract Breach for a Lawsuit
Paul Snider had hired a private investigator to follow Dorothy Stratten in the time leading up to the murder-suicide. The investigator even planned to place recording devices on Snider, hoping to record Stratten saying she would take care of him financially. That plan was foiled because they could not find proper equipment, The Village Voice reported.
The investigator was a 26-year-old freelance detective named Marc Goldstein.
The Los Angeles Times quotes Goldstein in its August 15, 1980 article as as a “friend of the couple.” He told the newspaper he was the last person who ever spoke to Stratten, during a phone call. Throughout the day, he repeatedly tried to call her and went over to the house with several other friends because he could not reach her.
“I was totally shocked and stunned,” Goldstein told the Los Angeles Times. “They were both wonderful people. All I could figure is it had to be an act of passion.”
Two days later, The Times questioned Goldstein about his work as a private investigator. He claimed he was “friendly with both” Stratten and Snider, but acknowledged Snider hired him to investigate Stratten, her personal life and “possible relationships.”
“He would not elaborate,” the article said.
He discovered poems and love letters from Peter Bogdanovich to Dorothy Stratten among her belongings, according to The Village Voice. Snider also asked Goldstein to find out whether Bogdanovich was manipulating Stratten with cocaine.
While Goldstein would not tell the publication exactly what Snider hired him to investigate, a lawyer who represented both Stratten and Snider told The Village Voice that Snider was hoping to find evidence of an affair to sue Bogdanovich for “enticement to breach management contract.” Snider believed the management contract was an unspoken clause of their marriage contract. He planned to file the lawsuit in British Columbia, contending the couple was only in Los Angeles for business.
3. The Bodies of Both Paul Snider & Dorothy Stratten Were Found Nude, & Police Believe He Raped Her
When Los Angeles Police officially ruled the case a murder-suicide, investigators also determined Snider had raped Stratten, according to The Washington Post.
“Dorothy had, apparently, been sodomized, though whether this occurred before or after her death is not clear,” The Village Voice reported in 1980. “After the blast, her body was moved and there were what appeared to be bloody handprints on her buttocks and left leg. Near her head was Paul’s handmade bondage rack-set for rear entry intercourse. Loops of tape, used and unused, were lying about and strands of long blonde hair were discovered clutched in Snider’s right hand.”
Both Stratten and Snider died from gunshot wounds. Snider used a 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun to shoot Stratten in the face, before turning the gun on himself. Both of the bodies were found nude. Stratten went to the apartment she once shared with Stratten to discuss a settlement agreement. A doctor who also lived in the apartment found the bodies after opening the door to the bedroom.
A letter from Snider discussing financial hardships was found in Stratten’s purse, along with a settlement offer from Stratten for $7,500, The Village Voice reported.
4. Paul Snider Once Said He Would Kill Himself Before Going to Jail
Paul Snider was terrified of going to jail, according to a 1980 issue of The Village Voice.
“He would kill himself, he once told a girl, before he would go to jail,” The Village Voice feature on Stratten’s death said.
He began acting erratically as their marriage dissolved. Several friends told The Village Voice he was in a state of dismay at their lost relationship. A note speaking of his financial hardships was found on the crime scene.
“He was found face-down lying parallel to the foot of the bed. The muzzle of the Mossberg burned his right cheek as the shell tore upward through his brain. The blast, instead of driving him backwards, whipped him forward over the length of the gun,” the article said. “He had always said he would rather die than go to jail.”
The day after the shooting, Lt. Dan Cooke told The Los Angeles Times police believed the motive for the shooting “was apparently that [Snider] was despondent over the breakup of the marriage.”
5. Snider’s Remains Were Sent Back to Canada While Stratten Was Buried in Los Angeles
While Dorothy Stratten was buried in West Los Angeles after her body was cremated, Paul Snider’s remains were sent back to Vancouver, British Columbia. She is buried among celebrities at Westwood Memorial Park, while he is buried in Vancouver, near their hometown.
He is buried at Schara Tzedeck Cemetery in New Westminster, in the Greater Vancouver Regional District of British Columbia, Canada, according to Find a Grave. Stratten’s gravestone includes a portion of a quote from Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms.”
“If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them…it kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure that it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry,” Stratten’s grave says.
“In loving memory of a beloved son and brother,” says Snider’s grave, according to Find a Grave.
He was 29 when he died.
“As for Paul Snider,” The Village Voice reported in 1980, “his body was returned to Canada in permanent exile from Hollywood. It was all too big for him. In that Elysium of dreams and deals, he had reached the limit of his class. His sin, his unforgivable sin, was being small-time.”