Judith Barsi

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Judith Barsi

Barsi's portrait
BornJudith Eva Barsi
(1978-06-06)June 6, 1978
Los Angeles, California, US
DiedJuly 25, 1988(1988-07-25) (aged 10)
Canoga Park, Los Angeles
Cause of deathGunshot wound
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park
Years active1984–1988
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Judith Barsi

Barsi's portrait
BornJudith Eva Barsi
(1978-06-06)June 6, 1978
Los Angeles, California, US
DiedJuly 25, 1988(1988-07-25) (aged 10)
Canoga Park, Los Angeles
Cause of deathGunshot wound
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park
Years active1984–1988

Judith Eva Barsi (June 6, 1978 – July 25, 1988) was an American child actress. She started her career in television, making appearances in commercials and guest starring in television shows. Her success in television led her to star in films such as Jaws: The Revenge and most notably providing voices for the characters of Ducky in The Land Before Time and Anne-Marie in All Dogs Go To Heaven. She was small in stature and often played characters younger than her actual age.[1] After years of physical and mental abuse, Barsi and her mother were shot and killed by her father, József, in a murder–suicide.


Family history

József "Arizona Joe"[1] Barsi had fled Communist Hungary after the 1956 Soviet occupation at age 19. He initially settled in France, and married a fellow Hungarian refugee named Klara, with whom he had two children, a son named Barna (1957-1995), and a daughter named Ági (1958-2008). József soon developed a drinking problem, and began to physically abuse his wife.[2] Ági, and other close contacts, later wrote that József suffered from low self-esteem, stemming from mockery over his Hungarian accent and the social rejection he suffered in Hungary, due to his illegitimate birth.[1][2][3]

After the family moved to New York in 1964, József extended his abuse to his son Barna, prompting Klara to escape with the children to Arizona five years later. Although József attempted to reconcile himself with his family, Klara filed for divorce after he threw a cast iron skillet at her in a drunken rage. Shortly after the divorce, József moved to California,[2] where he worked as a plumbing contractor. There, he met Maria Virovacz, a waitress in a Los Angeles restaurant known as a meeting place for immigrants.[1]

Maria, herself a Hungarian refugee escaping the Soviet occupation, was born in rural southern Hungary,[1] and suffered psychological and physical abuse from her father. The two married, and Judith's birth quickly followed in Los Angeles, California, where Judith was raised.[3]


Maria Barsi soon began grooming her daughter to become an actress.[1] At the age of five, Judith was discovered at a skating rink.[1] She went on to appear in more than 70 commercials and guest-starring roles on television.[4]

As well as her career in television, Judith appeared in several films including Jaws: The Revenge and provided the voice for the character of Ducky in The Land Before Time. Don Bluth, the director of the latter film, described her as "absolutely astonishing. She understood verbal direction, even for the most sophisticated situations,"[5] and had intended to use her extensively in his future productions.[6] As she was short for her age (she stood 3 ft 8 in (1.12 m) at age 10), Judith began receiving hormone injections at UCLA to encourage her growth.[1]

By the time she entered fourth grade, she was earning an estimated $100,000 a year, which helped her buy the family a three-bedroom house in the West Hills section of Los Angeles.[7]


"Judith's just a kid and she has more money in the bank than I'll ever see. It makes me sick. Some day I'd like to strangle the little brat."

—József Barsi, as recounted by a neighbor.[8]

As Judith's career success increased, József became increasingly abusive, jealous and paranoid, and would routinely threaten to kill himself, his wife and daughter. His alcoholism worsened, and resulted in him getting arrested three times for drunk driving.[1] In December 1986, Maria reported his threats to the police, and also reported that József had hit her in the face and choked her. After police found no physical signs of abuse, Maria eventually decided not to press charges against József.[1]

After the incident, József reportedly stopped drinking, but continued to threaten and abuse his wife and daughter. Before leaving to shoot Jaws: The Revenge in the Bahamas, József threatened Judith with a knife, telling her, "If you decide not to come back, I will cut your throat."[1] Maria stated that József showed her where he kept his gasoline, and warned her that he intended to burn the house down if she and Judith left. He reportedly hid a telegram informing Maria that a relative in Hungary had died, in an attempt to prevent her and Judith from leaving America.[9] Judith told her best friend that József, in a fit of rage, once threw pots and pans at her in the kitchen, giving her a nosebleed.[8] Due to her father's abuse, Judith began putting on weight[9] and exhibited disturbing behavior, which included plucking out all 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, Judith 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 start divorce proceedings against József and that she and Judith were going to move into a Panorama City apartment she had recently rented as a daytime haven away from József.[10] Friends urged Maria to follow through with the plan, but she resisted reportedly because she did not want to lose the family home and belongings.[1] As József was obsessed with cleanliness, Maria stopped cleaning the family home in a bid to drive him out. Judith's half-sister Ági visited the house and later described it as a "living pigsty".[3] A week before the murder-suicide, Maria told a next-door neighbor that she intended to cash her daughter's $12,000 federal tax refund check before József could get it.[11]


Judith was last seen on the morning of Monday, July 25, 1988, when she rode her bike on her street.[3] On that same night, József shot Judith in the head while she was asleep in her room. Maria, hearing the gunshot, rushed down the hall, where József met her and shot her as well.[7] József spent the next two days wandering around the house,[3] and said during a phone call with Judith's agent on Tuesday 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.[12] He later went into the garage and shot himself in the head with a .32 caliber pistol.[11][13]


Barsi's headstone with Barsi's marker from 2004.

On August 9, 1988, Barsi and her mother were interred in unmarked graves at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles. The funeral was attended by about 75 mourners, many of them children.[14] In June 2004, a fund was set up by Barsi's fan club to purchase headstones for their graves. Barsi's marker, placed on August 23, 2004, reads "In Memory of the Lovely Judith Eva Barsi 1978 - 1988 "Our Concrete Angel" Yep! Yep! Yep!" in reference to Martina McBride's song about child abuse and Barsi's character Ducky's catchphrase from The Land Before Time.[15]

Barsi's final film, All Dogs Go to Heaven, in which she voices the orphaned Anne-Marie, was released in 1989, a year and a half after her murder.[16]


1984Fatal VisionKimberly (age 3)Miniseries
1985Kids Don't TellJennifer RyanTV movie
1985Do You Remember LoveKathleenTV movie
1985The New Twilight ZoneGertieSegment: "A Little Peace and Quiet"
1985There Were Times, DearMolly ReedTV movie
1985The Fall GuyLittle GirlTV series (1 episode: "Escape Claus")
1986Remington SteeleLaurie Beth PiperTV series (1 episode: "Suburban Steele")
1986Punky BrewsterAnnaTV series (2 episodes)
1986Trapper John, M.D.Lindsay ChristmasTV series (1 episode: "Life, Death and Dr. Christmas")
1986CheersChild #1TV series (1 episode: "Relief Bartender")
1986Cagney & LaceyShauna BardTV seriea (1 episode: "Disenfranchised")
1986The New GidgetLittle GirlTV series (1 episode: "It's Only Rock & Roll")
1986Eye of the TigerJennifer Matthews
1986The Love BoatChristmas angelTV series (1 episode: "The Christmas Cruise: Part 2")
1987Destination AmericaAmyTV movie
1987Slam DanceBean
1987Jaws: The RevengeThea Brody
1987The Tracey Ullman ShowLittle Girl/KarenTV series (2 episodes)
1988St. ElsewhereDebbie OppenheimerTV series (1 episode: "The Abby Singer Show")
1988ABC Afterschool SpecialBillie FosterTV series (1 episode: "A Family Again")
1988The Land Before TimeDucky (voice)released posthumously
1988Growing PainsYoung CarolTV series (1 episode "Graduation Day")
1989All Dogs Go to HeavenAnne-Marie (voice)released posthumously
1992Growing PainsYoung CarolTV series (1 episode: "The Last Picture Show, part 2") (flashback only)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Johnson, John; Fuentes, Gabe (1988-08-07). "A Script of Fear : Repeated Threats by Father of Child Actress Carried to Tragic End". latimes.com. http://articles.latimes.com/1988-08-07/local/me-382_1_child-abuse. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c Barsi, Ági (1999), What will you do?, A Better Life, ISBN 0967169399
  3. ^ a b c d e (240p) DEATH OF A FAMILY - Judith Barsi's story. Arnold Shapiro Productions. 1989. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqsL2c73OHc. 
  4. ^ "Local News in Brief : Child-Abuse Files Ordered Opened". latimes.com. 1988-08-23. http://articles.latimes.com/1988-08-23/local/me-919_1_child-abuse-files. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  5. ^ Don Bluth - ... on Movies, Games and Visions, yiya.de
  6. ^ The Animated Films of Don Bluth:All Dogs go to Heaven, John Cawely
  7. ^ a b Donnelley, Paul (2005-11-01). Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries (3 ed.). Omnibus Press. pp. 122. ISBN 1-84449-430-6. 
  8. ^ a b "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. 
  9. ^ a b "A Lesson Learned From Family Tragedy". The Los Angeles Times. 1988-09-18. http://articles.latimes.com/1988-09-18/news/vw-2980_1_family-tragedy. Retrieved 9 June 2012. 
  10. ^ "Inquiry in Barsi Case Dropped Too Soon, Panel Says". The Los Angeles Times. 1988-09-07. http://articles.latimes.com/1988-09-07/local/me-1411_1_judith-barsi. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  11. ^ a b Fuentes, Gabe (July 28, 1988). "Three Dead in Apparent Murder-Suicide". Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/1988-07-28/local/me-9912_1_apparent-murder-suicide. Retrieved February 10, 2012. 
  12. ^ "Local News in Brief : Bodies Identified as Child Actress, Mother". latimes.com. 1988-07-29. http://articles.latimes.com/1988-07-29/local/me-7875_1_child-actress. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  13. ^ "Child Actress Is Slain, Apparently by Father". The New York Times. 1988-07-30. http://www.nytimes.com/1988/07/30/us/child-actress-is-slain-apparently-by-father.html. Retrieved 22 November 2009. 
  14. ^ C. Phillips, Deidre (1988-08-10). "Child actress Barsi, mother buried". Los Angeles Daily News. 
  15. ^ IMDB biography. A photo of the gravesite shows the referenced text.
  16. ^ Beck, Jerry (2005). The Animated Movie Guide. Chicago Review Press. pp. 13–14. ISBN 1-55652-591-5. 

External links