‘I Fought the Law’ Singer Bobby Fuller’s Grisly Death Had Suspects From the Manson Family to the Mafia

Hollywood is full of mysterious deaths and true crime stories of highly-adored celebrities. In many cases, these mysteries never uncover reasonable answers and the cases go completely cold. In the case of Bobby Fuller, that is exactly what happened. Although it was initially considered a suicide, contradicting evidence has many people thinking the rock and roll king of Texas was more likely murdered by the Mafia or the Manson family. 

The Bobby Fuller Four with Bobby Fuller at the center
(Center) Bobby Fuller with The Bobby Fuller Four | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Fuller was slated to be as influential as groups like The Beatles

In 1966, Fuller had just started sparking conversations in his group Bobby Fuller Four when he mysteriously died. Their music was comparable to talent like The Beatles, with a distinct touch of Texas rock and roll. According to The Guardian, many people believed they would’ve been just as influential too.

“If [Fuller had toured the UK like he was scheduled to], I honestly believe today’s music scene would be vastly different,” said Miriam Linna, author of I Fought the Law: the Life and Strange Death of Bobby Fuller. “[Fuller] would have represented the second coming of Buddy Holly, who eight years earlier had toured Britain, inspiring everyone from the fledgling Beatles to those guys who ended up being in a band called the Rolling Stones.” Their most successful songs were “Loves Made a Fool of You,” “Let Her Dance,” and “I Fought The Law,” with the ladder becoming a punk rock staple and inspiring popular covers by bands like The Clash and Bruce Springsteen. 

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“The Bobby Fuller Four [was] an amazing Texas combo, one of the best pure rock and roll groups ever,” the Rising Storm reviews. “Few rock titans possessed the raw talent and drive of Bobby Fuller; he could write songs ready-made for the radio, was a fine lead guitarist, and early on, he produced his own records. Fuller was also the owner of a teen club and various independent record labels, a true rock and roll entrepreneur from the genre’s early days.”

He died under mysterious circumstances at only 23 

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There are a lot of unanswered questions surrounding the 23-year-old’s death. According to Legacy, the L.A. Coroner’s report read, “Deceased was found lying face down in front seat of car—a gas can, 1/3 full, cover open—windows were all rolled up & doors shut, not locked—keys not in ignition.” He was also covered in bruises and gasoline, and reported by a witness to have broken fingers. His death was initially ruled as suicide, then changed to accidental a couple of months later. Many people believe that the rising star’s death was anything but accidental or suicide, considering it seems unlikely to rising rock legend would ‘accidentally’ drown himself with gasoline. 

LA Times reported Fuller’s brother Randy Fuller commenting on the death in an interview with El Paso Times in 1998. It seems even those closest to the death didn’t believe it wasn’t murder. “Who would pour gas on himself in a hot car?” Randy Fuller asked. “I just think he got in a bad situation that night, met the wrong dude, and couldn’t get out of it. I’m 99.9% sure that it wasn’t an accident or a suicide.”

Conspiracy theories suggest he might’ve been killed by the Manson family or the mob

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As with any questionable death with mysterious circumstances, people quickly jumped in to some serious conspiracy theories. And in all honesty, they make a lot more sense than accidentally drowning oneself with gasoline. According to The Guardian, reports that the most unlikely theories include “an accident following a bad reaction to LSD, knocked off by the Manson family, retribution for a dalliance with the girlfriend of a mob-connected Los Angeles nightclub owner, [and] Keane [because] Fuller was the third artist under his charge, after Valens and Sam Cooke, to die in disputed circumstances.”

Some have even suggested the owner of Roulette Records, Morris Levy, because he was “a notorious figure once described as the ‘Godfather of the American music business’ [due to his connection to] the east-coast mafia, [including] members of the Gambino, Genovese and DeCavalcante crime families.” Unfortunately, it seems no one will ever really know what happened to Bobby Fuller unless someone admits it, which is highly unlikely. It’s more likely that Fuller will continue to be considered a true crime cold case like too many other abrupt and mysterious celebrity deaths.