The Tragic Life & Murder Of Child Star Judith Barsi | Part One | True Crime

(Judith Barsi: Picture credit: donbluth) 

This case has always had an impact on me from the moment I heard about it. Like a lot of kids growing up in the 90s, the movie The Land Before Time was a favourite of mine, especially the character Ducky. As I got older I was to learn of the tragic story of the little girl who was the voice of Ducky and in this post I'm going to share the heartbreaking story of a beautiful little child star who's life was wiped out at only 10 years old at the hands of her own father.

Some of the details that I share in these posts will be quite upsetting, I will also be talking about child abuse and domestic abuse so please be warned. I understand if you would prefer to skip these posts.

Let's begin...

Judith Ava Barsi was born in Los Angeles, Calfornia on the 6th of June 1978 to Hungarian Immigrant parents, Jozsef and Maria. Both of her parents had been married before and her father had two children from his previous marriage that lived with their mother Carla in another state. Both of her parents came to California at different times but they met at a restaurant where Maria was working.

What nobody knew at the time was that Jozsef had left a lot of destruction behind him from his previous marriage to Carla. He had met Carla in France, she was also a Hungarian immigrant and the pair hit it off and soon had two children. They all moved to New York for a fresh start but things soon turned sour when Jozsef (who was always quite an aggressive man) began to abuse his wife.

When Carla took the children and tried to get away from him, he tracked them down and pleaded to her that he had changed, she saw through it. He made death threats and assaulted her one last time before going to California. Maria, who had suffered abuse in the past reportedly by her father, knew nothing of the monster that Jozsef really was. Jozsef was polite, charming and confident and Maria fell in love with him and soon fell pregnant with Judith.

Maria had always wanted to be an actress, it was her lifelong dream but somewhere along the way she gave up and when Judith was born, she had plans on making Judith a child star. She began coaching Judith, teaching her how to sing and put on little performances. When she told friends that she was hoping to make Judith a star, they thought that it was a silly dream with the number of child stars in Hollywood at the time it was really hard to get a break.

But, when Judith was five and out at a skating rink with her parents, a TV crew who were filming a commercial spotted her and discussed with Maria and Jozsef the possibility of getting Judith an agent and for her to appear in another commercial. Ofcourse they were excited about this and so was Judith.

From that moment onwards, Judith was like the little queen of commercials, her cute little face and bubbly personality was popping up everywhere. This also opened the door to roles on well known TV shows. her first TV role was in Fatal Vision. Judith's most known roles were in the movies: Jaws: The Revenge, The Land Before Time and All Dogs Go To Heaven.

(Judith starred alongside some of the biggest names in in TV and Movies. Picture credit: pigtailsinpaint.org

Judith was a beautiful little girl, very small for her age and would often play younger roles because of her height. At one point there was some concern for her slow growth and she was given some hormone injections for a period of time to help her grow. She was a brilliant little actress and could take any verbal direction, she was like a little pro. She could act happy or act sad and she was just a natural, everyone who ever worked with her was impressed with her, including Don Bluth the director of both The Land Before Time & All Dogs Go To Heaven. He found her so easy to work with that he had plans to include her in his future movies.

(Left: Judith Barsi. Right: Jozsef and Maria, Judith's parents. Picture credit: unbelievable-facts.com

Judith was a hardworking little girl and by the time she was in fourth grade she was making as much as $100,000 a year, this enabled the family to move out of their cramped apartment and into a luxurious three bedroomed house in West Hills, Los Angeles.

With Judith's career going from strength to strength and their financial situation improving you would think that all would be well with the Barsi household but things were turning sour when Jozsef couldn't control his temper. For a man with a violent background pretending to be laid back, it was only a matter of time before the real him came to the surface. He drank heavily and fell into trouble with the police numerous times for drink driving. Instead of being grateful and proud of his daugther, he began to resent her and the fact that she was the main breadwinner in the house. He was also envious of the close relationship that Maria and Judith had.

He had nobody to blame but himself, it was no wonder that Judith would want to be around her mother more when all he did was drink and be verbally abusive. Being the amazing little actress that she was, Judith carried on going to school everyday and working hard like nothing was happening. The truth was that Jozsef was getting worse as the days went on. People who knew him back in New York later said that Jozsef was the type of guy who could start a fight in an empty room, Jozsef would try to fight people for no reason. He was always quick to fly off the handle with everything and he could be like that sober as well as drunk.

He grew more and more jealous of Judith and his mood swings were getting worse. He would take out his frustrations out on Maria at first and would often boast to his friends that he was going to kill her one day. His friends never took it seriously. He then turned his attentions to both Maria and Judith, threatening them both that he would kill them if they ever left him and he would burn the house down.

Being the paranoid control freak that Jozsef was he had to know where Judith and Maria were at all times and would open any letters or packages that came to the house. A letter arrived for Maria informing her that a relative had passed away in Hungary but Jozsef kept this letter from her. He didn't want Maria and Judith to leave him.

Even the neighbours knew that all was not well in the Barsi home. One reported that she saw Judith happily playing in the garden one day with a kite, the next minute Jozsef walked up to her and grabbed the kite and broke it in two leaving Judith in tears.

Maria often told friends that she was sick of Jozsef and was going to leave him but she said that so many times and never followed through with her plans that people got tired of hearing it.

Maria loved the lifestyle that Judith's money brought, she didn't want to lose the house or the fancy items in the house to Jozsef so she continued to put up with things she shouldn't have. In one incident, Maria called the police and told them Jozsef had punched and throttled her but when the police arrived she wanted the matter dropped and the police decided that since there was no marks on her face to just leave it. This was a huge mistake on the part of the police officers as it is very common for frightened victims of domestic violence to want to opt out of taking things further in fear of repercussions.

After this incident Jozsef reportedly stopped drinking but the abuse continued to get worse. When Judith was in her bedroom packing some of her favourite things for filming a movie in the Bahamas, Jozsef walked up to the child and placed a knife at her neck and said ''If you dont come back from filming, I will cut your throat.''

(Judith Barsi in one of her acting scenes in the popular 1980s TV show, Cagney and Lacey) 

Maria and Judith went to the Bahamas and when they were taking breaks inbetween filming, Maria was talking to some of the women who were part of the crew. She told them about Jozsef, the problems in the marriage and that she was scared of him. The women tried to give her advice but every time that they did, Maria would change her mind and say that she was going back.

Maria's brother lived in New York and after filming she took Judith there for a few days. Jozsef went crazy when he found out and phoned her. He insisted on talking to Judith on the phone and told her to remember what he had said to her. Up until this point, Judith kept the frightening incided with her father a secret but after the phonecall she told Maria.

Instead of getting the hell out of the situation and protecting her daughter, Maria went back for the sake of the house and the material possessions. Even the neighbours got to a point where they had almost given up trying to give Maria advice, she never took it and always went back to Jozsef.

The trauma was getting too much for Judith and she could no longer keep it all inside and act like the happy little girl that she was used to playing. She began pulling her eyelashes out and pulled her cat's whisker's out, she also gained weight and when she attended an audition for the movie All Dogs Go To Heaven, she suddenly out of nowhere had a panic attack and started crying hysterically. It took her agent, Ruth a while to calm her down. Judith told her some of the things that had been going on and Ruth took her straight to a child psychologist who determined that Judith had been suffering a severe case of psychological and physical abuse and contacted Child Protection Services.


Continued in part two...


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Check out some of the true crime cases I have covered previously:

Victim of The Porn Industry or Con Artist? The Shelley Lubben Story (2 Part Series)
















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