Before Saturday Night Live icon Phil Hartman died in a murder-suicide, he revealed feeling “a sense of vulnerability” to life’s unknowns. Read on to learn more about his death and relationship with the wife who killed him. Plus, what did he say about “living with the awareness that anything could happen in this world” just before his murder?
Phil Hartman died in his wife’s 1998 murder-suicide
Hartman is known as a comedic genius for hilarious roles on shows like NewsRadio. But the comedian died tragically in a murder-suicide carried out by his third wife, Brynn Hartman, in May 1998. The couple had two young children who were in the home when their father was murdered, and their mother later died by suicide.
At first, the couple seemed to be a good match, but the honeymoon didn’t last. “… Phil does what he did with his last two relationships — he begins to withdraw emotionally,” biographer Mike Thomas explained, relating Hartman’s third marriage to his first two (per ABC News).
Thomas added, “They begin this pattern of fighting and making up and fighting and making up that would mark their relationship from there on out.”
Friends said the couple was like night and day in some ways. Hartman had mentioned they might be headed for divorce. Brynn mixed antidepressants with alcohol and could be volatile, they said. On the other hand, Hartman was reportedly more introverted and would retreat when the couple fought.
Hartman said he lived with ‘the awareness that anything could happen in this world’
In 1998, Hartman gave an interview during which he opened up about recognizing his good fortune. “I think in my old age, I’ve come to realize just how precious everything is, and I try to value the many blessings that have been bestowed upon me,” he explained (per ABC News).
“But there’s also this sense of vulnerability if fortune took a turn for the worse,” the 3rd Rock From the Sun actor added. “And that you live with the awareness that anything could happen in this world.”
Family members believed Zoloft contributed to Phil Hartman’s murder
Following the murder-suicide, which once caused a violent fight between Jon Lovitz and Andy Dick, the coroner told Hartman’s brother that Brynn was on Zoloft and drinking alcohol when she killed her husband, then died by suicide.
As reported by CBS News, Hartman’s brother said the coroner told him that Brynn “did not know what she was doing. Or why she was doing it.”
He added, “I took that as true. And I forgave her in that moment.”
Alleging the antidepressants caused the tragedy, Brynn’s brother Greg Omdahl eventually sued Pfizer on behalf of Hartman’s estate. The suit was privately settled for $100,000, but the company never confessed to any wrongdoing.