“I’m deathly afraid of him”
Glamorous Lana Turner appeared in films and gossip columns, married seven times and had one child, a daughter, Cheryl Crane, on 25 July 1943. Lana’s choice of men was not always wise and in the late 1950s she took up with small-time hoodlum Johnny Stompanato.
He had first contacted Lana in April 1957 during the making of The Lady Takes A Flyer, calling himself John Steele. She finally agreed to have a drink with him and they began an affair and by the time Lana discovered his true identity he had charmed her. On 18 September 1957 Lana flew to England to film Another Time, Another Place but she was lonely and the weather depressed her. She paid for Stompanato to visit her. He visited the set and warned Lana’s co-star Sean Connery to “stay away from the kid” which resulted in the burly Scotsman punching him. In retaliation, Stomanato attacked Lana so she arranged for him to be deported soon afterwards.
When they were both back in America, Stompanato often laid hands on Lana with the result that she was in fear for her life. Cheryl told her mother to leave the thug but Lana replied, “I’m deathly afraid of him.” Things came to a head on a friday when Stompanato and Turner had a furious argument in the bedroom of her Beverly Hills mansion. Fearing her mother’s life was in danger, Cheryl picked up a 20-cm (8-in) kitchen knife and, when Stompanato opened the bedroom door, either she accidentally stabbed him or he walked onto the weapon.
When the police arrived two hours later they arrested 14-year-old Cheryl. Stories have long persisted that it was, in fact, Lana herself who plunged the knife into her lover’s stomach. In her autobiography, written while her mother was still alive, Cheryl sticks to the story that she was the killer. Johnny Stompanato’s family believed that Lana had killed him and sued her for $1 million but accepted $20,000.
730 North Bedford Drive, Beverly Hills, California, USA
Friday 4 April 1958
An inquest on 11 April 1958 found Cheryl Crane guilty of justifiable homicide. She appeared before a closed juvenile hearing on 24 April and was made a ward of court. On 11 March 1960 she was sent to El Retiro, a reformatory for problematic girls.
On 11 June 1961 Cheryl was arrested with two other girls during a “wild drinking party” and the police noted that Cheryl was dressed in “mannish clothes”. In April 1970, police found three half-grown cannabis plants in the back seat of her car but charges were dropped through lack of evidence.
In 1988, Cheryl published her autobiography, the first public mention by her of the killing. She lives in Palm Springs, California, with her lesbian lover and works as an estate agent. Lana Turner died a little after 10pm on 29 June 1995 at her home, Suite 2006, 2170 Century Park East, Century City, California.