After a long night of drinking with a female companion, Brynn Hartman, wife of Saturday Night Live (SNL) star and comedian Phil Hartman, drives herself home and shots her husband three times at point-blank range. Brynn then leaves her home once again and visits a male friend, continues her drinking and cocaine binge, and then drives back home where she places a revolver barrel in her own mouth and pulls back the trigger.
Small-town Minnesota girl dreamed of Hollywood fame.
Before becoming Brynn Hartman, she was a simple Minnesota girl named Vicki Jo Omdahl. Vicki had also dreamed of acting in Hollywood and will risk everything to move across the country to chase that dream.
Vicki, tall, blonde, and beautiful, had little success when she first moved from her small town, instead dating men in the business instead of landing big roles. Omdahl was eventually introduced to her future husband, an up-and-coming comedian and master impressionist who found his talent best served in the improv scene, Phil Hartman.
An unlikely duo.
On the surface, there was not much the couple had in common. Vicki Jo Omdahl grew up in a small Minnesota town whereas Hartman hailed from Canada sharing the same hometown as hockey star Wayne Gretzky. Plus there were relationship differences. Vicki had never been married, but Phil had already finished his second divorce.
Maybe Vicki should have picked up on the red flags so noticeable in Phil Hartman’s past. Many women considered Phil a romantic, often failing head over heels in love with a woman, but always lacking the patience and qualities necessary to keep the commitment beyond the first year of marriage.
Hartman also had problems working through relationship issues, instead rolling over and falling to sleep, hoping that his wife would eventually tire herself and leave him alone. One close family friend, Steven Small, told the press that the couple, “had a pattern of arguing at night, and he would go to sleep and everything would be OK in the morning.”
Now forty years old, eleven years married, and the full-time career of the couple’s two small children: Sean and Birgin were only nine and six, respectively. Brynn’s dream of becoming a Hollywood star seemed to grow more and more impossible each day. She was stuck, living in her husband’s shadow cast all the way from New York City where he lived and worked on the Saturday Night Live cast.
On May 28, 1988, Brynn Hartman had finally had enough.
Arriving back home around 1:am, Brynn argued more with her unattentive husband, who rolled over and fell asleep as usual. Brynn lifted the Smith & Wesson Model 15 .38 caliber 4″ blue steel revolver from her husband’s nightstand drawer, positioned the barrel close to his forehead and pulled back the trigger, killing him instantly.
With both of her children still asleep inside the house, Brynn drives her car to Ron Douglas’s, a male friend, home in Studio City. Brynn knocks on his front door around 3:am confessing that she shot her husband dead. Over the next few hours Brynn would be in and out of the bathroom, vomiting and crying, passing out and waking back up, until Douglas demanded that they both drive to the home and sort out the relationship problems with Phil.
Ron Douglas still doubted that Phil Hartman’s wife actually killed him.
A history of drug abuse.
Brynn’s post-mortem BAC level was .12 and there were traces of both cocaine and prescription Zoloft in her body as well. This deadly cocktail that she started consuming earlier in the evening on May 28, 1998, may have amplified her emotional state, presenting her with just the right amount of ‘buzzed’ to fly into a violent and jealous rage.
However, even before this night, friends and family knew of Brynn’s cocaine addiction and she was even previously treated at a rehab center for her drug use. It is easy to see from the autopsy report that Brynn’s brain was clearly being altered, even in the slightest bit, by her self medicating habits.
“My life is over.”
Before Brynn barricaded herself in the master bedroom with her dead husband and shot herself through the mouth, she called her sister in Wisconsin. Her sister and her husband had the responsibility of raising the kids after this night.
Some of Brynn’s last words are:
“Tell my kids that I love them more than anything and I always loved them, and Mommy doesn’t know what happened, and she’s just very sorry.”
Brynn also calls several other people to confess her husband’s murder, including her close female friend Judy and lets her know she understands that her “life is over.”
Brynn Hartman takes a second revolver and places the barrel inside her own mouth and then pulls the trigger.
Who’s really to blame?
The murder suicide of Phil and Brynn Hartman is tragic. Clearly there were problems in the relationship, but no one expected such a devastating end. I can only imagine how both kids Birgen and Sean are still dealing with the awful early morning of May 28, 1998.
They awarded both kids the Hartman estate, but looking through social media accounts it is easy to see a history of drug addiction in Birgen, although according to her own post she is now drug-free.
Brynn Hartman’s brother took the makers of Zoloft. However, I have seen many comments and articles that claim this was nothing more than a cop-out and a way to pass blame away from Brynn Hartman.
Los Angeles, California
Saturday, May 30, 1998
Stevens Point Journal Stevens Point, Wisconsin
Wednesday, June 3, 1998
The Daily Breeze Torrance, California
Tuesday, June 9, 1998
Statesman Journal Salem, Oregon
Saturday, May 29, 1999