Judith Barsi

Judith Eva Barsi (June 6, 1978 – July 25, 1988) was an American child actress of the 1980s. She began her career in television, making appearances in commercials and television shows, and later appeared in the films Jaws: The Revenge, The Land Before Time, and All Dogs Go to Heaven, providing the voice for animated characters in the latter two. She and her mother, Maria, were both killed in July 1988 as a result of a double murder–suicide perpetrated by her father, József.[1]

Judith Barsi
Barsi Judith
Barsi on an episode of Punky Brewster
BornJudith Eva Barsi
June 6, 1978
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
DiedJuly 25, 1988 (aged 10)
Canoga Park, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of deathHomicide by gunshot
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills
Years active1984–1988

Family history

Barsi’s father, József, fled Communist Hungary after the 1956 Soviet occupation. He relocated to New York in 1964, and then to California,[2] where he met Maria Virovacz, also a Hungarian immigrant escaping the Soviet occupation.[1] They married and moved to Los Angeles, California where, on June 6, 1978, Barsi was born.[3]


Maria Barsi began grooming her daughter to become an actress, and at the age of five, she was discovered at a skating rink.[1] Barsi's first role was in Fatal Vision, playing Kimberley MacDonald. She went on to appear in more than seventy commercials and guest roles on television.[4] As well as her career in television, she appeared in several films, including Jaws: The Revenge, and provided the voices of Ducky in The Land Before Time, and Anne-Marie in All Dogs Go to Heaven.

By the time she started fourth grade, Barsi was earning an estimated $100,000 a year, which helped her family buy a three-bedroom house in West Hills, Los Angeles.[5] As she was short for her age (she stood 3 ft 8 in (1.12 m) at age 10),[1] she began receiving hormone injections at UCLA to encourage her growth. Her petiteness led casting directors to cast her as children that were younger than her actual age. Her agent was quoted in The Los Angeles Times as saying that when she was ten, "she was still playing 7, 8."[1]

Abuse and murder

As Barsi’s career success increased, József became increasingly angry and would routinely threaten to kill himself and his wife and daughter. His alcoholism worsened, causing the police to arrest him three separate times for drunk driving.[1] In December 1986, Maria reported his threats and physical violence toward her to the police. After police found no physical signs of abuse, she decided not to press charges against him.[1]

After the incident with police, József Barsi reportedly stopped drinking, but continued to threaten Maria and Judith. His various threats included cutting their throats as well as burning down the house. He reportedly hid a telegram informing Maria that a relative in Hungary had died in an attempt to prevent her from leaving the United States with Judith.[6] The physical violence continued, with Barsi telling a friend that her father threw pots and pans at her, resulting in a nosebleed.[7] As a result of his abuse, Barsi began gaining weight[6] and exhibited disturbing behavior, which included plucking out her eyelashes and pulling out her cat's whiskers.[1] After breaking down in front of her agent during a singing audition for All Dogs Go to Heaven, Barsi was taken by Maria to a child psychologist, who identified severe physical and emotional abuse and reported her findings to Child Protective Services.[1]

The investigation was dropped after Maria assured the case worker that she intended to begin divorce proceedings against József and that she and Barsi were going to move into a Panorama City apartment she had recently rented as a daytime haven from him.[8] Friends urged her to follow through with the plan, but she resisted, reportedly because she was afraid that she would lose the family home and belongings.[1]

Judith Barsi Headstone Grave
Barsi's grave at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills

Judith Barsi was last seen riding her bike on the morning of July 25, 1988.[3] That evening, József shot her in the head while she was sleeping, and then murdered Maria.[5] He spent the next two days wandering around the house,[3] and said during a phone conversation with Barsi’s agent the next night that he intended to move out for good, and just needed time to "say goodbye to my little girl."[1] He then poured gasoline on the bodies and set them on fire.[9] After incinerating the bodies, he went to the garage and shot himself in the head with a .32 caliber pistol.[10][11] On August 9, 1988, Barsi and her mother were interred at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles.[12]


Barsi’s final film, All Dogs Go to Heaven, in which she provided the speaking voice of Anne-Marie, was released in November 1989.[13] Don Bluth, the director of The Land Before Time and All Dogs Go To Heaven, described her as "absolutely astonishing. She understood verbal direction, even for the most sophisticated situations,"[14] and he intended to feature her extensively in his future productions.[15] The end credits song "Love Survives" was dedicated in her memory.


Year Title Role Notes
1984 Fatal Vision Kimberly (age 3) Miniseries
1984 Jessie Katie Episode: "Valerie's Turn"
1985 Kids Don't Tell Jennifer Ryan Television movie
1985 Do You Remember Love Kathleen Television movie
1985 Knots Landing Bratty Girl Episode: "#14 with a Bullet"
1985 The Twilight Zone Gertie Segment: "A Little Peace and Quiet"
1985 There Were Times, Dear Molly Reed Television movie
1985 The Fall Guy Little Girl Episode: "Escape Claus"
1986 Remington Steele Laurie Beth Piper Episode: "Suburban Steele"
1986 Punky Brewster Anna 2 episodes
1986 Trapper John, M.D. Lindsay Christmas Episode: "Life, Death and Dr. Christmas"
1986 Cheers Child #1 Episode: "Relief Bartender"
1986 Cagney & Lacey Shauna Bard Episode: "Disenfranchised"
1986 The New Gidget Little Girl Episode: "It's Only Rock & Roll"
1986 Eye of the Tiger Jennifer Matthews
1986 The Love Boat Christmas Angel Episode: "The Christmas Cruise: Part 2"
1987 Destination America Amy Television movie
1987 Slam Dance Bean
1987 Jaws: The Revenge Thea Brody
1987–88 The Tracey Ullman Show Little Girl / Karen 2 episodes
1988 St. Elsewhere Debbie Oppenheimer Episode: "The Abby Singer Show"
1988 Growing Pains Young Carol Episode: "Graduation Day"
1988 ABC Afterschool Special Billie Foster Episode: "A Family Again"; Released posthumously
1988 The Land Before Time Ducky (voice) Released posthumously
1989 All Dogs Go to Heaven Anne-Marie (voice) Released posthumously
1992 Growing Pains Young Carol Episode: "The Last Picture Show, part 2" (archive footage)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Johnson, John; Fuentes, Gabe (1988-08-07). "A Script of Fear: Repeated Threats by Father of Child Actress Carried to Tragic End". latimes.com. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  2. ^ Barsi, Ági (1999), What will you do?, A Better Life, ISBN 0967169399
  3. ^ a b c DEATH OF A FAMILY – Judith Barsi's story. Arnold Shapiro Productions. February 15, 1989.
  4. ^ "Local News in Brief: Child-Abuse Files Ordered Opened". latimes.com. 1988-08-23. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  5. ^ a b Donnelley, Paul (2005-11-01). Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries (3 ed.). Omnibus Press. p. 122. ISBN 1-84449-430-6.
  6. ^ a b Barber, Sherry (1988-09-18). "A Lesson Learned From Family Tragedy". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 June 2012.
  7. ^ "Girl who appeared on 'Growing Pains' told show's star: My dad says he's going to kill me!". The National Enquirer. 1988-09-16.
  8. ^ Fuentes, Gabe (1988-09-07). "Inquiry in Barsi Case Dropped Too Soon, Panel Says". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  9. ^ "Local News in Brief: Bodies Identified as Child Actress, Mother". latimes.com. 1988-07-29. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  10. ^ Fuentes, Gabe (July 28, 1988). "Three Dead in Apparent Murder-Suicide". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
  11. ^ "Child Actress Is Slain, Apparently by Father". The New York Times. 1988-07-30. Retrieved 22 November 2009.
  12. ^ C. Phillips, Deidre (1988-08-10). "Child actress Barsi, mother buried". Los Angeles Daily News.
  13. ^ Beck, Jerry (2005). The Animated Movie Guide. Chicago Review Press. pp. 13–14. ISBN 1-55652-591-5.
  14. ^ "Don Bluth – .... on Movies, Games and Visions". Retrieved 9 July 2013.
  15. ^ Cawley, John. "Don Bluth All Dogs Go To Heaven". Archived from the original on 3 January 2014. Retrieved 9 July 2013.

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