The Shocking Murder of ‘CHiPs’ Star Larry Wilcox’s Sister

Acting gives everyday people the chance to assume entirely different lives. Mundane routines become action-packed scenes of chases, rescues, and victories. Not only can these exciting roles make ordinary people overnight celebrities, but they can also provide an escape from real-life circumstances. 

American actor Larry Wilcox couldn’t save his sister from a devastating crime, but a starring role in the crime drama CHiPs offered him a second chance to be a hero. 

‘CHiPs‘ delivered six seasons of chases and pile-ups

A black-and-white photo of actors Anne Lockhart as Officer Kathy Mulligan and Larry Wilcox as Officer Jon Baker in 'CHiPs,' Episode 7, "Return of the Supercycle," aired on October 27, 1979
Actors Anne Lockhart as Officer Kathy Mulligan and Larry Wilcox as Officer Jon Baker on the TV show ‘CHiPs’ | NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Weekly from 1977 to 1983, CHiPs entertained audiences with an hour of action-packed cop drama. The series primarily followed two California Highway Patrol officers. Jon Baker and Frank “Ponch” Poncherello seemed to be the perfect duo, with the former constantly trying to keep the free-spirited Ponch in line. 

Though taking on a role as a highway patrolman nearly guarantees that every day on the job will be different, the show’s fans noticed some thematic consistencies from episode to episode. Viewers could usually count on a few things: chases, massive car pile-ups, and their two favorite motorcycle cops swooping in to save the day. 

Six years is certainly a long time to spend on patrol, but audiences kept coming back for more. According to IMDb, the show received an Emmy nomination in 1980 for Erik Estrada’s Ponch portrayal.

And for a true testament to the public’s appetite for the duo in tight uniforms, look no further than the CHiPS movie starring Dax Shepard and Michael Peña. Released more than three decades after the TV show ended, the comedy film grossed nearly $27 million worldwide, IMDb reports. 

Larry Wilcox’s star turn as Officer Jon Baker

Nowadays, Shepard and Peña would probably be named fan favorites over the original cast. But at the peak of CHiPs‘ popularity, you couldn’t get much cooler than Larry Wilcox. The Wyoming native became famous for playing Officer Jon Baker, who met every situation with a cool head and plenty of heroism. 

However, Wilcox exited the show a bit earlier than the other regulars. He missed the last season following spats with producers and a long-standing feud with co-star Estrada, as chronicled in People. Though Wilcox has continued acting, most notably through small roles on TV shows such as 30 Rock and Murder, She Wrote, many fans will always remember him best as Officer Baker. 

A tragic incident early in Wilcox’s life foreshadowed his on-screen career


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Erik Estrada drew inspiration from his CHiPs character and became a real-life police officer, Today reported. Though Ponch informed that actor’s future, Wilcox might’ve drawn on his past to inspire his character. 

Wilcox experienced a tremendous tragedy during his college years, IMDb reports. His sister’s husband fatally shot her in front of Wilcox’s mother and his sister’s children. As a result, a young Wilcox returned home to help care for his devastated family. From there, perhaps to regain a sense of control and purpose, he honorably served in the U.S. Marine Corps and eventually earned a co-starring role on CHiPs

It might seem that a high-stakes cop show would hit too close to home for Wilcox. But, ironically, Officers Baker and Poncharello rarely drew their guns, Estrada shared with ABC. Because the show occupied the 8 p.m. family hour, it instead focused on themes of “officer-public friendships and mentoring.”