Published On: Mar 10 2014 12:31:08 AM EDTUpdated On: Jul 22 2015 02:00:00 AM EDT
Jennifer Hudson's mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew were murdered Oct. 24, 2008, by her sister Julia's estranged husband, William Balfour. Balfour was sentenced to life in prison for the murders in July 2012.
John Travolta and Kelly Preston's 16-year-old son Jett died in January 2009 while the family was on a Christmas vacation in The Bahamas. Jett, who had autism and suffered regular seizures, was found unresponsive in the bathroom of their resort home early in the morning. The tragedy was made all the worse several days later when a multi-million dollar extortion plot aimed at Travolta regarding his son's death was uncovered. It was also not the first time Travolta's life has been touched by tragedy. The actor had been in a relationship with "Eight is Enough" actress Diana Hyland, whom he had met while filming "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble," when she died of breast cancer in 1977.
Tragedy struck Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan at the peak of his career when his father, James R. Jordan Sr., was murdered on July 23, 1993, at a highway rest area in Lumberton, North Carolina. Two teenagers, Daniel Green and Larry Martin Demery, were traced from calls they made on James Jordan's cell phone and eventually arrested. They were later convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Michael Jordan cited his father's death as one of the reasons for his first retirement in the fall of 1993.
Ennis Cosby, the 27-year-old son of comedian-actor Bill Cosby, was fatally shot Jan. 16, 1997, in an attempted robbery while changing a flat tire in Los Angeles. Mikhail Markhasev, an 18-year-old Ukrainian immigrant, was eventually convicted of first-degree murder and attempted robbery in the shooting and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Bill Cosby had used Ennis, his only son, as the basis for Theo Huxtable, played by Malcolm Jamal Warner, on the sitcom "The Cosby Show." Pictured is a photo Bill Cosby posted on Facebook on Father's Day in 2013.
Liam Neeson lost his wife, British actress Natasha Richardson, when she died on March 18, 2009, two days after suffering a head injury when she fell during a ski lesson in Quebec, Canada. The couple had appeared together in the movie "Nell" and had been married since 1994. Richardson, the daughter of actress Vanessa Redgrave and the sister of actress Joely Richardson, is also known for her roles in movies such as "The Parent Trap" and "Maid in Manhattan."
Eric Clapton's son Conor died at age 4 on March 20, 1991, when he fell out the window of his mother's friend's 53rd floor apartment in Manhattan. Clapton was not there at the time of the accident but was staying at a nearby hotel. His song "Tears In Heaven" is about Conor and would earn Grammys for Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Pop Male Vocal Performance in 1993.
Paul Newman's eldest and only son, Scott, died on Nov. 28, 1978, from an accidental overdose of drugs and alcohol. In A.E. Hotchner's 2010 book "Paul and Me," he wrote that Newman told him, "There's nothing you can say that will repair my guilt about Scott. It will be with me as long as I live."
Anna Nicole Smith's 20-year-old son Daniel died while visiting her in a hospital in The Bahamas following the birth of her daughter, Dannielynn, on Sept. 10, 2006. After an initial autopsy labeled the cause of death as "reserved," Smith hired forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht to perform a second autopsy. Wecht eventually concluded that Daniel had died from a lethal combination of Zoloft, Lexapro and methadone. The 39-year-old Smith would meet a tragic end herself five months later when she died of a prescription drug overdose in her Florida hotel room.
Sylvester Stallone's 36-year-old son, Sage Stallone, was found dead in his Los Angeles-area home in July 2012. Law enforcement stated that he could have been dead for at least three days up to a week. A coroner's report would later reveal that Sage, who appeared as Rocky Balboa's son in "Rocky V," had died from heart disease. "When a parent loses a child there is no greater pain," his father said in a statement. "This agonizing loss will be felt for the rest of our lives. ...Sage was our first child and the center of our universe and I am humbly begging for all to have my son's memory and soul left in peace."
The 5-year-old son of Grammy-winning R&B singer Usher and his ex-wife Tameka Foster nearly drowned in an Atlanta pool in August 2013 after becoming stuck in the drain. He was pulled from the pool and given CPR and spent a week in the hospital. The near drowning came nearly a year after Foster's 11-year-old son Kile, Usher's stepson, died after being critically injured in a boating accident.
Venus and Serena Williams' older half-sister Yetunde Price, 31, was shot in the head while riding in her boyfriend's SUV in Compton, California, on Sept. 14, 2003. Price, the Williams sisters' personal assistant, died later at a hospital. The Williams family issued a statement after Price's death calling her "our nucleus and our rock" and saying that "her death leaves a void that can never be filled." Southside Crips gang member Robert Edward Maxfield was later sentenced to 15 years in prison for the shooting.
When "Cheers" and "Frasier" star Kelsey Grammer was 13 years old, his father was shot and killed in 1968. In 1976, his younger sister, Karen, was abducted, raped and murdered. In 1980, his twin half-brothers were killed in a scuba diving accident. "Frasier" creator and executive producer David Angell, his close friend, also died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"All in the Family" star Carroll O'Connor's only son, Hugh O'Connor, 33, who appeared with him in the TV series "In the Heat of the Night," committed suicide with a self-inflicted gunshot wound in March 1995. Hugh had successfully fought Hodgkin's lymphoma as a teenager, but became addicted to drugs during his treatment. He called his father before his suicide, telling him of his plans to end his life. Carroll O'Connor called the police, who arrived at his son's home just as he shot himself in the head. A toxicology report later determined that Hugh had cocaine in his blood at the time of his death.
Mary Tyler Moore's son, Richie Meeker, died from accidental gunshot wounds on Oct. 15, 1980. A formal investigation by the Los Angeles Coroner's Office found that he had been playing with a shotgun from his personal collection when it went off. Moore later wrote in her 1995 autobiography that that model of gun was later taken off the market because of its "hair trigger."
Film director Roman Polanski is better known for fleeing the United States in 1978 after initially pleading guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl, but he also famously lost his pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate, when she was murdered in 1969 by followers of Charles Manson.
Kanye West's mother, Donda West, 58, died in November 2007 of heart disease while suffering "multiple post-operative factors" after cosmetic surgery involving abdominoplasty and breast reduction. She had been on the faculty of the English Department of Chicago State University for more than two decades before retiring to manage her son's career. They are seen here at the 2006 Grammy Awards.
"Modern Family" star Sofia Vergara's brother was murdered in 1998 during an attempted kidnapping while the fledgling actress was still living in her native Colombia. Two years later, Vergara was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She had her thyroid removed, underwent iodine radiation therapy and made a full recovery.
Mariska Hargitay of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" is the daughter of actress and 1950s-era sex symbol Jayne Mansfield. When Hargitay was 3 years old, Mansfield was killed in a June 29, 1967, automobile accident in Louisiana that also killed her boyfriend, Sam Brody, and the driver. Hargitay, asleep in the backseat of the car, was left with a zigzag scar on one side of her head. Her two brothers were also in the car and escaped with minor injuries.
Rapper and record producer Dr. Dre lost his 20-year-old son, Andre Young, to an overdose of heroin and morphine in August 2008.
Marie Osmond's son, Michael Blosil, 18, died in February 2010 after jumping from the eighth floor of his downtown Los Angeles apartment building. He left a note explaining he intended to commit suicide due to his life-long battle with severe depression that left him, he said, feeling as if he had no friends and could never fit in.
Mark Ruffalo, who's appeared in movies such as "Zodiac," "Shutter Island," "The Kids Are All Right" and "Marvel's The Avengers," lost his brother, Scott Ruffalo, to a gunshot wound to the head in December 2008. Shaha Mishaal Adham, who was in the house at the time of the shooting, was considered a suspect and told police that Scott Ruffalo had shot himself while playing Russian roulette. However, the coroner later ruled the wound was not self inflicted. Adham has since died of a drug overdose and the case remains unsolved to this day.
After rapper Nelly's sister Jackie Donahue was diagnosed with leukemia in 2001, the two launched the Jes Us 4 Jackie campaign to find bone marrow donors for Donahue and others, and to raise awareness about the need for marrow donations. Donahue's cancer was in remission for two years, but she suffered a relapse and died in March 2005.
Mike Tyson's life has been a series of ups and downs in and out of the ring, including a three-year prison sentence on a rape conviction and biting off a piece of Evander Holyfield's ear during their 1997 rematch. The boxer's life took another twist on May 25, 2009, when his 4-year-old daughter Exodus was found by her 7-year-old brother Miguel, unconscious and tangled in a cord, dangling from an exercise treadmill in their Phoenix home. The girl's mother untangled her, administered CPR and called for an ambulance. She died of her injuries the following day.
Oscar-winner Charlize Theron grew up on her parents' farm outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. On June 21, 1991, when she was 15, her father, Charles Theron, physically attacked her mother, Gerda Maritz, and threatened both of them while drunk. Theron's mother then shot and killed him in what was later ruled to be self defense. The Hollywood star has refused to talk publicly about the traumatic event, except to say that Gerda was a victim of domestic abuse.
Funk pioneer Curtis Mayfield, best known for the soundtrack to the 1972 blaxploitation film "Super Fly," was paralyzed from the neck down after stage lighting equipment fell on him during an outdoor concert in Brooklyn on Aug. 13, 1990. Nearly eight years later he had to have his right leg amputated due to diabetes. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999, but health reasons prevented him from attending the ceremony. He died from diabetes on Dec. 26, 1999.
Mark Wahlberg's older sister Debbie died suddenly after being admitted to the hospital with kidney stones and suffering a heart attack. She died on Sept. 2, 2003, the same day Wahlberg's first child was born.
Leighton Meester of "The Gossip Girl" was born while her mother was serving time in federal prison for her part in a drug ring that smuggled marijuana into the U.S. from Jamaica. Meester was born in a hospital and her mother was allowed to nurse here for three months in a halfway house before returning to prison to finish her sentence, after which Leighton's grandmother cared for her.
Actress Carole Lombard, the 33-year-old wife of fellow actor Clark Gable, was among 22 people killed on Jan. 16, 1942, when TWA Flight 3 crashed into Potosi Mountain southwest of Las Vegas about 15 minutes after takeoff. Lombard, the star of movies such as "Twentieth Century," "My Man Godfrey," "Nothing Sacred" and "To Be or Not to Be," had married Gable in March 1939. Also killed in the crash along with Lombard was her mother and her MGM press agent.