Around 8:30am on July 27th, 1988, Eunice Daly heard a loud explosion followed by the sight of fire emanating from her neighbor’s property, while she was out tending to her garden. Police arrived at 22100 Michale Street Canoga Park in the West Hills of California to the shocking double murder and suicide of 10-year-old Judith Barsi, her mother Maria, and her father Jozeph Barsi.
Judith Barsi was a successful child actress who appeared on many movies such as Jaws: The Revenge and Fatal Vision and television shows such as Cagney and Lacey, where she played the character of a abused child, Growing Pains, and Cheers. Judith’s first commercial was for Donald Duck Orange Juice and would later go to produce 72 commercials in total.
Judith is also well known for her voice acting of ‘Ducky‘ from the Land Before Time and her work in All Dogs Go To Heaven.
Both Judith Barsi and her mother Maria was for many months were being abused physically and emotionally by the father of József Barsi. József, known as ‘Arizona Joe’ immigrated to the United States after fleeing his home country of Hungary after the 1956 Soviet occupation and revolts. We know not much about his upbringing besides that he was not cared for by his biological parents and grew up in a “miserable childhood” in the industrial part of Hungary. Newspapers claim that Joe was family man and even told his brother-in-law “if the family life is gone, then life is not worth living.”
Joe’s first marriage was to a woman named Klara and together they had two children, Barna born in 1957, and Agi, born in 1958. Sources claim that Joe Barsi became an alcoholic only when immigrating to America, and this is where he developed into the abusive husband he later became. Klara, fearing for her family’s safety, filed for divorce and took the two kids to live in Arizona. Joe Barsi followed the family out there and eventually met his second wife and the mother of Judith, Maria Virovacz.
Maria Virovacz was from a rural university town in Hungary which she also fled in 1956, eventually ending up in California where she met Joe when she was a waitress.
On the day of Judith Barsi’s murder she was supposed to attend an appointment with her agent and Hanna Barbera Inc. Judith’s agent, Ruth Hansen, calls the home to check on her client but the father picked up the phone and told her “They went to San Diego. A black car took them away. I’m just here to get my things and say goodbye to my little girl.”
Around midnight on July 27th, 1988, the father Joe took a .38 caliber revolver and walked into his 10-year-old daughter’s room. He placed the barrel of the revolver under Judith’s right ear and pulled the trigger, killing her instantly. Joe then murdered his wife as she was in the hallway to see what was happening. Joe didn’t kill himself until the next day, after talking to Ruth Hansen on the phone, burning both Judith’s and Maria’s body with gasoline before finally turning the gun on himself. Police found the father dead in the family garage with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head.