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'Playboy' Playmate Dorothy Stratten Died In 1980 — New Details On Her Murder Revealed 40 Years Later

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How Did Dorothy Stratten Die? New Details On Death Of 'Playboy' Model And Actress

In her prime, she was the Playboy Playmate of the Month and the Playboy Playmate of the Year. That's why her death in 1980 stunned both the pop culture world and the fans of her work. But now, new details have been uncovered about her murder, and they were the subject of the October 18 episode of 20/20. So how did Dorothy Stratten die?

Dorothy Stratten was more than just a Playboy Playmate. Before she was murdered, she also appeared in three comedy films and two episodes of mainstream shows on broadcast television. And even when she was murdered by her ex-boyfriend and ex-manager, her legacy lived on. She had several movies made about her life and death, and was the subject of several popular songs, including "The Best Is Yet To Come" by Bryan Adams and "Californication" by The Red Hot Chili Peppers. 

Now, let's look at what we know about her life and death, and what new revelations came to light with this new 20/20 special. 

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1. She was originally from Vancouver. 

According to The Vancouver Sun, Dorothy Stratten had a rather ordinary upbringing. She was working at a Dairy Queen at 18 years old when she was discovered by Paul Snider. Snider would eventually marry her, and they would come to Los Angeles shortly thereafter. Later, Snider would become her manager...and her killer.

2. Was Dorothy Stratten getting pimped out?

20/20 reports that, at the time that Dorothy Stratten met Paul Snider, he wasn't just a local club promoter, he was a pimp. The outlet also reports that Snider was "grooming" her for a career involving nudity, eventually making her pose nude for a photo shoot. The use of the word "grooming," however, leads people to believe that this was a situation where she was "groomed" into sex. 

3. Her affair with Peter Bogdanovich was the tipping point. 

Broadway World reports that, shortly after meeting the director Peter Bogdanovich, Dorothy Stratten began having an affair with him. She was trying to negotiate an amicable divorce with Paul Snider and even moved in with Peter Bogdanovich, but things quickly took a turn for the worse. 

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4. Paul Snider raped and murdered Dorothy Stratten, then turned the gun on himself. 

This is absolutely horrifying, and perhaps one of the first well-known cases of a murder-suicide: according to The New York Post, "she made lurid headlines when her estranged husband, Paul Snider, raped and then murdered the reigning Playboy Playmate of the Year with a 12-gauge shotgun blast to the face. She was 20 years old. Snider, 29, then turned the gun on himself."


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5. The estranged couple's housemates found the bodies.

Teresa Carpenter won a Pulitzer Prize for her work at The Village Voice covering the Dorothy Stratten murder. In her archived piece, which can be found on her website, Carpenter reported that the estranged couple's housemates found the bodies of Dorothy Stratten and Paul Snider. 

6. Peter Bogdanovich went on to marry Dorothy Stratten's sister. 

According to an interview he gave to Fox News back in 2017, Peter Bogdanovich admitted that though he went on to marry Dorothy Stratten's sister — and stayed married to her for more than 20 years — he never really got over Dorothy. "I loved her dearly and deeply. She was kind of the inspiration for the film in a funny way… Sometimes it’s painful to watch the documentary. Sometimes I can’t take it and just get up and walk out of the room for some of it. [I miss her] wisdom, her laugh, her warmth, her beauty, her humor, her charm, her elegance [and] her empathy. Everything about her I miss, she had," he said. 

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Bernadette Giacomazzo is an editor, writer, and photographer whose work has appeared in People, Teen Vogue, Us Weekly, The Source, XXL, HipHopDX, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, and more. She is also the author of The Uprising series. For more information about Bernadette Giacomazzo, click here.