The latest on Phil Hartman's death

By Josh Wolk
June 01, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

Emerging details about the murder/suicide of Phil Hartman and his wife, Brynn, paint a picture of a tumultuous marriage that led to a violent final act. The Los Angeles Times reported that Brynn shot Phil repeatedly in the head while he slept early Thursday morning. This might have been the explosive end of an earlier argument. “They would argue at night, and he would go to sleep and everything would be OK in the morning,” said Steven Small, a close friend who had handled both of Phil Hartman’s previous divorces. “I think he felt safe going to sleep, and he just shouldn’t have. I think she just lost control.”

After shooting her husband, Brynn drove to an unidentified male friend’s home and incoherently told him what she had done. It is unclear whether she had the children with her. The friend did not believe her until he found a gun in her purse. He drove Brynn back to the Hartmans’ Encino house, where he dialed 911 at 6:20 a.m. while she locked herself in her bedroom with Hartman’s body. The friend was bringing the couple’s 9-year-old son, Sean, out of the house when the police arrived; while retrieving 6-year-old Birgen, the officers heard Brynn shoot herself.

Details of the couple’s 10-year marriage vary wildly in accounts from friends and family. Some speak of an idyllic union that had survived tough times, others say they fought constantly. Brynn herself had reportedly recovered from a cocaine and alcohol addiction, although the Times reported that she had been drinking heavily before the killings.

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