The Death of Judith Barsi

Judith Barsi was only ten years old when her father killed her and her mother on July 25, 1988 in their California home. She was a ten year old with a promising future. She was already all but supporting her family with her film career.

Judith had been discovered at the age of five while at a skating rink. By the time of her death she had made numerous commercials, starred in several television shows, and had appeared (or did the voice) in at least three movies. Children will forever know her voice as Anne-Marie in the animated classic, All Dogs go to Heaven. This would be her final film and released after her death.

The saddest thing about Judith's death is that it was all completely avoidable. Not only did those close to the family know that her father, Jozsef was increasingly abusive but so did others, including Judith's agent and even child protective services, which had been brought in after a child psychologist had reported to them. But mostly it could have been avoided by her own mother, Maria. I know, I know, I mentioned that she too was murdered by Jozsef and some have said or believed that she was killed while attempting to protect Judith but that protection came way too late. Unlike so many other women who are with abusive spouses Maria had the means and ability to get away and save not just herself, but her child.

According to child protective services they closed their case and stopped their investigation because Maria told them she was divorcing Jozsef and she had rented an apartment for she and Judith. But, she did not follow through and according to friends and family it was because she did not want to lose the family home and the material things inside.

It appears that as Judith's career started taking off and she became more successful that her father's rage became increasingly more prevalent. By the time she had auditioned for All Dogs Go to Heaven Judith was showing the classic signs of an abused child in which her behavior became odd and she began to self mutilate. She had gained weight and had begun even plucking out her own eye lashes. It was then that Maria was forced to take her to the child psychologist who was able to identify severe physical and emotional abuse.

While the last blog that I did also addressed domestic violence and the lack of laws preventing victims in this time period, the difference here was that Maria often did not follow through with things. There was however at least one police report made in December of 1986, some year and a half before their deaths. Maria had reported that Jozsef had threatened both her and Maria. It was said that the police did not see any physical signs of abuse, although I am unsure that she had claimed that there were at that time. She apparently was given the option to file charges but decided against it. I can only assume that since it was reported that there were no signs of physical abuse that he would not have been arrested and to be fair she likely feared things would be worse if she filed charges since he was not being removed from the home.

On the morning of July 25, 1988, Judith was last seen riding her bike in the neighborhood. Although I am unsure how authorities could be certain, it is believed that later that night while she was sleeping Jozsef shot her in the head in her bed. Maria was shot just outside the room in the hallway. It is theorized that for the next two days Jozsef wandered the home, leaving the bodies where they lay. On the following night Judith's agent called and spoke to Jozsef. Jozsef reportedly told the agent that he was moving out of the home for good but needed time to “say goodbye to my little girl.” It was said that soon after this call he poured gasoline on the bodies inside the home and set them on fire. He then went to the garage where he shot himself in the head with a .32 caliber revolver. Presumably the fire brought the authorities to the home in which all the bodies were found.

Two months later, in September, there was an investigation done by the county advisory panel to find out why nothing was done to save her sooner. It was then that it was said that CPS had dropped the investigation prematurely. Of course, as if often the case such as these the blame was placed on the fact that the case worker had an abundance of cases and much more than they could handle. It was said that each case worker should have approximately forty cases to have what was considered a “full load.” This case worker had sixty-seven at the time. That is not the unusual part though. The director in charge of CPS reportedly testified that the case was closed because Maria wanted it closed. It does not appear that CPS even tried to defend themselves or if they did they did so very poorly.

I try to not be a “victim basher” when I do my blog but often it is difficult or nearly impossible to do. In this case I keep coming back to Maria and the resources she had available to her. So many battered and abused women are overly controlled by their abusers to the point they do not have access to the public, let alone money to get away. This just simply did not seem to be the case here. In fact, it was said Maria did have an apartment that she had rented, just as she said she did. But, did she do so just to get CPS off her back and prove that she did? Judith was making nearly $100,000 a year at the time of her death. In today's money it would be double that. In the end it was reported that she did not leave, not because things were better, or she wanted her family in tact, or even that she was scared of what Jozsef would do, but because she did not want to lose material items. Was this true? That can never fully be known but things do point in that direction. Regardless she had a duty to protect her child and remove her by any means possible from that living situation and failed to do so. This is simply unacceptable to me. 


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