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Remembering Judith Eva Barsi

Yep! Yep! Yep!

Biography

       

   The only child of Jozsef and Maria Barsi, Judith Eva Barsi was born in Los Angeles, California on June 6th, 1978      

A lot of people might have not considered Judith a "star", but she was in her own right. She was a promising actress, and in her short life she achieved so much. And we can only imagine if that hadn't been cruelly snatched away from us she would have continued to grow as an actress.

Judith Eva Barsi was born in Los Angeles, California on June 6th, 1978. Born to Hungarian immigrants, Maria and Jozsef Barsi, she was an only child.

Judith's mother, Maria, longed for Judith to become a "star", but Maria's brother Joseph Weldon told her, "Don't waste your time. The chances are one in 10,000 that you'll succeed." Despite her brother's opinion, Maria coached Judith in posture, poise, and voice. By chance, Maria's training paid off. Members of a crew, shooting a commercial at a San Fernando Valley skating rink, noticed five-year-old Judith's skilful skating. Without hesitation, she was hired for her first commercial for Donald Duck Orange Juice.

                      Mistaken for a 3-year-old

      Judith was cute, precocious, intelligent and a lot of fun to work with      

When Judith first met with an agent at 5 years old, they assumed she was 3 years old. Judith was extremely small in stature. Because of this she often played characters younger than her actual age. On her 10th birthday she stood 3 feet 8 inches tall - the average height of a 6 year old child. Towards the end of her life, Judith received hormone injections at the UCLA to prompt her growth.

Her agent was quoted in The Los Angeles Times as saying that when she was ten, "she was still playing 7, 8."

    Judith was very much like any other kid

Judith was cute, precocious, intelligent and a lot of fun to work with. Whatever the circumstances, she was always described as very professional, mature for her age and "down to earth". They signed her on immediately. In her short life, Judith went on to appear in around 70 commercials, four made for television movies, and three big screen movies. Some of her work included an appearance in Cagney and Lacey, Fatal Vision, Punky Brewster and The Twilight Zone (for a full list of her work, click here)

 

                 "She was a happy, happy little girl"

​    Whenever one of Judith's television appearances was about to air, Maria and her would make popcorn just before her show came on and sit together on the couch and watch it​    

    Despite her brother's advice, Maria coached her child in posture, poise, and voice

  (Pictured: Judith and her best friend, Trixie)

Despite her growing career as an actress, Judith was very much like any other kid. Like most of girls here age she liked to play with her dolls and ride her bicycle to her friends' houses. She loved to swim, play outside in her best friend's sprinkler, and loved to play the game "Operation". She also had 5 cats! Her best friend was a girl named Trixie.

She didn't listen to a lot of music, but she loved the Smurfs & the Care Bears. She also watched "Alf," "Growing Pains," "Who's the Boss," & "Win Lose or Draw." Judith's favourite colours were Pink and purple, and she also loved Sunflowers. She was learning to knit, just before her death. She had a crush on a boy named Kenny.

 

     Maria filed a police report in 1986, accusing Jozsef of threatening her over the last five years   

Her mother tried to keep Judith's schooling as normal as possible, even though she had to be away some times for her acting jobs . At school, Judith loved Art & Social Studies; she hated Math & P.E. She attended Nevada Avenue Elementary School of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Her attendance at a school was often interrupted by her work schedule. Nevertheless, Maria would bring Judith hot lunch to school almost every day, often times Hungarian dishes. One of Judith's favourite Hungarian meals was Duck. Another dish she loved was macaroni & cheese.

   Shortly before Judith's career took off, Jozsef would often be home drunk rather than working his job as a plumber and he refused to let Maria work    

Whenever one of Judith's television appearances was about to air, Maria and her would make popcorn just before her show came on and sit together on the couch and watch it. If Jozsef was home, they would watch it on the television in Judith's bedroom. Judith didn't get too excited over it though, she was more interested in kid stuff. In a Campbell's Tomato Soup commercial, they had to do so many takes, Judith said she would never eat tomato soup again!

Some other commercials she appeared in were Top Ramen, Jif Peanut Butter, McDonald's, Lays Chips, and several toy commercials.

     Her mother tried to keep Judith's schooling as normal as possible, even though she had to be away some times

Judith was bilingual and also spoke fluent Hungarian. When she was with her mother in public, they would speak Hungarian to each other so nobody else would catch on to what they were talking about. Judith and her mother were extremely close.

(Judith and Maria, pictured below)

For the most part, Judith's childhood seemed like any other child's, despite Judith's rising success as actress. But her happy childhood did not last that long.

 

​                     Judith's soaring success

A little while before Judith's career took off, her father, Jozsef, would regularly be home drunk rather than working his job as a plumber. As a result, the family were put on welfare for a short period. Jozsef was very possessive over both Maria and Judith, refusing to let Maria work and having tight control over Judith. By the time Judith was 7, she earned roughly $100,000 per year. This extra income helped the family buy a three bedroom house in Canoga Park, in 1985. The home was located at 22100 Michale Street. It didn't, however, lessen her fathers increasing temper.

       Judith probably witnessed this      

     (Pictured: Judith's 8th birthday party)

After the home was purchased, Jozsef became increasingly paranoid. He had a wrought iron fence with spikes built around the property. When Jozsef spoke with neighbours, he would keep the dialogue to a minimum. He was described as very secretive. Maria would talk to the neighbours, when Jozsef was not around and some of the other stage moms, and tell them about Jozsef's temper.

It was around this time that Judith's life began to fall apart. Jozsef became easily frustrated and when he was frustrated, he would drink. The drink made him more nasty. He soon was not only very dependent on alcohol, but also, having a low-income job, he was becoming jealous of his seven year old daughter. He was most likely jealous of Judith because of the shame that his daughter was earning money to support the family financially. When he would drink, he would become abusive and hostile. It started with his wife. Jozsef would beat Maria and threaten her life. Judith probably witnessed this, although not confirmed.

     As her career soared, her father became an increasingly abusive recluse

As Judith's career soared, her father became increasingly enraged and resentful. Jozsef's anger intensified, and he became paranoid and envious of his daughter's sucess and the attention she was receiving. Green with envy, he would routinely threaten to kill himself, Maria and Judith. Several sources have also reported that Jozsef would alternate his threats, sometimes saying he would kill his wife, other times saying he would kill himself and Judith and leave Maria alive "to suffer". Although Maria was a full-time homemaker, Jozsef complained about her housekeeping to his friends. He would invite them to his house, showing them piles of clothes and toys left throughout the house.

   

Jozsef's alcoholism worsened, which resulted in the police arrest him three separate times for drink driving. After the incident with police, Jozsef reportedly stopped drinking, but continued to threaten Maria and Judith. His various threats included cutting their throats as well as burning down the house. An incident was also reported where Jozsef allegedly hid a telegram informing Maria that a relative in Hungary had died, in an attempt to prevent her from leaving the United States with Judith. 

                       Abuse at home

   

    (Pictured: Judith with her mother, Maria Barsi)

Outside of the home Jozsef seemed to dote on Judith. He would call Judith "Little One". Behind closed doors, Judith's relationship with her father was anything but. As the abuse began to escalate, it became apparent to neighbours, who described Jozsef as often becoming inexplicably angry with Judith. One neighbour describes an afternoon when Maria had arrived home with a new toy kite for Judith. While Judith was looking at it, Jozsef snatched it from her.
"You're going to break it!" Judith cried as her father roughly handled her new toy. Jozsef turned to Maria and the neighbour and sneered "Look at her! She's just a spoiled brat and doesn't want to share her new toy!", and then proceeded to break the kite into as many pieces as possible.

 (Judith, in an episode of "Cagney & Lacey)

Another incident occurred one night at Judith's home. The Barsi's were having a party when Jozsef was enraged by all the attention his daughter was getting from their guests. She had gone into the kitchen and her father followed her. Calling her a "damn little brat", he pulled her ponytail so hard that she fell onto the floor. Poor little Judith told no one about this confrontation, with the exception of an elementary school friend. She also disclosed to a friend that her father threw pots and pans at her, on one occasion causing her nose to bleed. Despite Jozsef's frequent flare ups towards his wife and daughter, he frequently apologized to Judith and reassured her of his "love". After pulling her hair in anger, he bought Judith a pink television to make up for it.

   

Maria finally found the courage to come forward. She filed a police report in 1986, accusing Jozsef of threatening her over the last five years. She also disclosed he hit and choked her. Regrettably, police found no evidence of injuries on Maria and she eventually refused to prosecute. This was the first missed opportunity for the authorities to intervene and prevent the horrifying events that were soon to unfold. For the time being, the abuse continued and Maria and Judith lived in fear.

                       The Bahamas

   

  (Pictured: A press shot of Judith, on set in the Bahamas)

In 1987, Judith was cast in her first motion picture, Jaws IV: The Revenge. She had to film it on location at the Bahamas. Just before she left, her father gave her a terrifying farewell. He went into her bedroom, closed the door, and with a knife held to her neck, he warned, "If you and your mother do not to come back after shooting, I will find you and I will cut your throat."

(Judith and Maria, at a movie premiere for Jaws: The revenge)

  (Maria and Judith at the premiere for "Jaws 4")

When Maria reached the Bahamas, she told everyone who would listen about her fears for herself and Judith. Judith's studio teacher, Linda Stone-Elster, says how Maria would "constantly cry out" about Jozsef, and how concerned she was and how she threatened she felt, almost to the point where no one really "took her seriously".

  

When Judith and Maria briefly stopped in New York after filming to visit friends, Judith spoke on the phone with Jozsef and he shouted at her "Remember what I told you before you left!", referring to the threat of cutting her throat. Terrified, Judith burst into tears and ran into a bedroom. Maria then reportedly picked up the phone and was "going out of her mind". When Maria and Judith returned home to Los Angeles, the cycle of abuse continued. He had complete control over Maria, who was terrified to leave. After all, the police left Maria feeling helpless and cast aside.

   Judith

   (Judith, in "Jaws 4: The revenge")

 

                      Warning signs

   According to a National Enquirer article, Maria had rented a $700 apartment at the Regency Premier located at 8525 Tobias Avenue #314 Panorama City, CA 91402 which is directly across the street from the Panorama Mall

As the abuse went on, Judith began to experience emotional problems. This once carefree and high-spirited girl began putting on weight and exhibited disturbing behaviour, which included plucking out all her eyelashes and pulling out her cat's whiskers. When she was asked why she did this, Judith replied "Because of all the problems at home." Family friends also report that one time when Judith visited their house, she confided in them, saying "I'm afraid to go home. My daddy is miserable. My daddy is drunk every day, and I know he wants to kill my mother,".

Judith's friends also feared Jozsef. They describe times when they would knock on the door to see if Judith could come outside to play, and Jozsef would say to them, "Oh that little ass? She's not here." When they would stay over at Judith's house, they often went home early. According to Nancy Kelly, Jozsef was "The scariest man her friends ever met."

  

Fast forward to May 1988. Judith attended an audition for a singing part in "All dogs go to Heaven". Unable to deal with the abuse at home, Judith burst into tears. She was inconsolable, and her agent, Hansen, recalls that she was "hysterical and couldn't talk". Alarmed by Judith's distress, Hansen, stepped in. Hansen encouraged Maria to take Judith to a child psychologist. Maria did. Hansen recalled talking to the psychologist who said, "Ruth, it is extreme verbal, mental and emotional problems with this child and I have to report it to Children's Services." The psychologist told Maria to fill out a report and turn it in. She did, but no one followed up on it.

  After the home was purchased, Jozsef was so paranoid that he had a wrought iron fence with spikes built around the property

A spokeswoman for Children's Services later said the agency had contacted Maria who said she had "a plan of action." However, Hansen claims Maris said Children's services "weren't doing anything" so she said, 'I guess I'll have to handle it myself.'" Yet again, this was another missed opportunity for someone with authority to protect Judith. Two opportunities to save her, and both were overlooked. 

Maria rented an apartment. She and Judith spent their days there but returned home to Jozsef in the evening. Hansen pressed Maria as to why she did not make a complete break with Jozsef. She said she did not want to lose the nice home that Judith's career had bought the family. If Maria and Judith left Jozsef, they would have to go into hiding. And that would mean Judith would have to give up acting. That same May in 1988, Sherry Barber, saw Maria and Judith in a studio parking lot. Barber was puzzled by Judith's appearance: she had no eyelashes. Unbeknownst to Barber, Judith had pulled them all out.

 

                      A tragic ending

  On July 27, neighbor Eunice Daly, who had heard a single shot while watering her plants, saw smoke coming from the Barsi house

Judith was last seen riding her bike on the morning of Monday, July 25, 1988. She also had an appointment that day with Hanna Barbara Productions for a role in an upcoming TV cartoon series, but did not make it. Judith was also supposed to spend the night at a friend's house, but Judith never went and ended up staying home. Hansen called Jozsef, who said a car had taken his wife and daughter away. Sadly, Maria never followed through with her plan to leave Jozsef.

On July 27, neighbor Eunice Daly, who had heard a single gunshot while watering her plants, saw smoke coming from the Barsi house. She recalled thinking, "He's done it. He's killed them and set a fire in the house." The neighbor immediately called the fire department, who quickly put out the fire. The date of the murder has never been determined; the police have said that Jozsef could have killed Maria and Judith on July 25 or July 26 (although the death certificate state the day the bodies were found).

    Note the two policemen on the left crying)  

(Photo of police removing a body from the Barsi  house)

​   The date of the murder has never been determined; the police have said that Jozsef could have killed Maria and Judith on July 25 or July 26 (although the death certificate state the day the bodies were found)

It is believed that, after realizing that Maria was planning to leave him, Jozsef first entered Judith's bedroom and shot her in the head, as she slept. He then shot Maria in the same way as she ran down the corridor toward her daughter's room, most likely after hearing the gunshot. The shot heard by the neighbor was Jozsef shooting himself in the head, after he doused Maria and Judith's bodies in gasoline. Judith's body was found in her canopied bed, just a few feet from the pink television set her father bought her as an apology for hurting her. She was found on her left side, night gown still on. She had been shot in the head. She was just 10 years old. Maria was found, face down, in the hallway. She was 48 years old. Jozsef was found in the garage, after shooting himself in the head. He was 55 years old.

 

The interior of the home was destroyed, although the house was not completely destroyed and is currently occupied to this day. Most of Judith's toys were destroyed by the fire, but those that weren't were donated to goodwill. One of Judith's close friends fed her car for a few months after her death.

  It is believed that, after realizing that Maria was planning to leave him, Jozsef entered Judith's bedroom and shot her in the head; he then shot Maria in the same way as she ran down the corridor toward her daughter's room

  (Judith Barsi's death certifice

 

 

​A lot of people will want to blame Maria for not leaving Jozsef, but Maria was NOT at fault. She was a victim too. A victim who on several occasions came forward, to both police and child protective services, and was disregarded. Unlike a lot of people, Maria was an immigrant with no other family in the country. And from articles and eye witness accounts, she appeared to have no one to turn to for support. She was terrified that if she left Jozsef he would unmistakably find her and Judith, and kill them both. The irony of the situation is that she probably felt it was safer to stay, and that leaving would undoubtedly make him more irate. 

I don't doubt for one minute that she believed he would follow through with the threats. It's clear from articles online that Judith was her world. The police and CPS are to blame (as well as the obvious being Jozsef). Even if the police didn't have enough evidence to charge Jozsef with hitting his wife, they knew a child was involved in the situation and they should've made sure Judith was safe. And the CPS claim Maria dropped the case because she was going to leave Jozsef. Maria was not their client, Judith was. It was their duty to protect Judith, as she was a child being abused.