“I’ve always known she shot Spider Sabich and meant to do it”
Claudine Georgette Longet was born at Paris, France on 29 January 1942 and became a popular singer during the 1960s, no doubt helped by her marriage to Andy Williams on 15 December 1961. They had three children and divorced in January 1975.
In 1972 Longet took up with Olympic skier Vladimir “Spider” Sabich, nearly four years her junior, following her separation from Williams and she and her three children moved in with the handsome sportsman. After a time, Sabich began to tire of life with Longet and told friends he wanted to separate.
However, he did not ask her to move out because he adored her children. On 21 March 1976 the couple was together at his house in Aspen when Sabich went to take a shower. He was undressed down to his blue thermal underwear when Longet shot him. He bled to death on the way to Aspen Valley Hospital. When the police arrested her, she told them that the gun had gone off accidentally as Sabich was showing her how to use it.
An autopsy showed that the skier was bent over with his back to her and no nearer than 2 m (6 ft) away when he was killed. However, Longet stuck to her story that it was all a tragic accident when she came to trial. Williams publicly supported his ex-wife throughout the trial in January 1977. The Aspen police had made two mistakes when prosecuting the case. They had taken a blood sample from Longet —which showed cocaine in her system — and taken her diary in which she recounted bitter arguments with Sabich.
However, both these actions were carried out without a warrant, which rendered them inadmissible in court. The weapon was also unaccounted for for three days as a policeman kept it in the glove compartment of his car. Longet threw herself on the jury’s mercy saying that they should not find her guilty because her children needed her. The jury listened and on 14 January 1977, after 40 minutes’ deliberation, acquitted her of felony manslaughter but convicted her of criminal negligence, a misdemeanour. Judge George E. Lohr sentenced her to spend 30 days in jail and pay a $250 fine and even let Longet choose when she served her sentence.
Starwood, Aspen, Colorado, USA
Sunday 21 March 1976
Longet went on holiday with her lawyer Ron Austin who left his wife and children for her. They later married. Longet never performed again. She was sued by the Sabich family for $1.3 million but settled out of court for a large sum and a promise never to write or tell her story. Prosecutor Frank Tucker said, “I’ve always known she shot Spider Sabich and meant to do it.”
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Mick Jagger wrote a song about the case, entitled Claudine, but it was edited from the 1980 Rolling Stones album Emotional Rescue.