JUDITH EVA BARSI – CHILD STAR MURDERED BY HER FATHER – CCA0105 – UPDATED 11.27.2013
JUDITH EVA BARSI – CHILD STAR MURDERED BY HER FATHER
As an advocate for victimized children, I know all too well that time means little. No matter how much time has passed, a child was still taken from this world, and that child deserves to have their story told, their memory honored and their life celebrated. So today, I ask all of you amazing people to celebrate the life of Judith Eva Barsi with me.
Judith Eva Barsi made her entrance into this world on June 6, 1978. A star was born. This talented little girl began her television career early at the age of 5 when she was discovered at a skating rink. Members of a crew who were at the skating rink shooting a commercial noticed Judith’s superior skating skills. With that, she was hired for her first commercial for Donald Duck Orange Juice, and her career took off from there.
Judith’s parents were immigrants from Hungary who had met in California. From the day Judith was born, Maria knew her daughter would be a star. Judith was a sweet girl with a shining smile. She loved to eat Mac-N-Cheese and duck. She was very social and enjoyed spending time with friends, especially a little boy, Kenny, who she had a crush on.
In her acting career, Judith went on to star in over 70 commercials and had many guest appearances on TV shows. Judith appeared in a commercial for Campbell’s Tomato Soup, and after numerous takes, Judith was left with an aversion to tomato soup, never eating it again. Judith enjoyed watching the Smurfs, CareBears, Alf, and Who’s the Boss?. In 1985, Judith was cast in the TV movie, Do You Remember Love? Sherry Barber’s daughter Andrea, was also cast in the film.
Sherry speaks of the time spent in a trailer between takes, recalling how Judith and her mother, Maria, would take turns reading from a storybook, their voices soft, sweet and animated. Judith and Andrea also got along well, telling knock knock jokes, giggling and passing notes under the door. Judith loved swimming and often played in her best friend’s sprinkler. She enjoyed playing the game Operation.
Those who knew Judith described her as smart, adorable and funny. Judith and Maria were very close. Judith spoke Hungarian fluently, and when she and Maria were in public, they would often speak in Hungarian so no one would know what they were talking about. The two were rarely apart from one another with Maria even teaching Judith how to knit.
The one downfall for Judith with all of the acting she was doing, was that she often missed school and told a friend, Lisa Williams, that she “missed being in school because she missed her friends a lot.”
Her favorite subjects in school were History and Art. Her not so favorite subjects, math and PE. Judith seemed to be a normal, happy little girl. Her favorite colors were pink and purple and her favorite flower was a sunflower. Judith loved to play with her dolls and ride her bike with her friends. By the time she was 7 years old, she was making $100,000 a year. Judith Barsi looked like she had it all, sadly, this was far from the truth.
Behind closed doors Judith and her mother, Maria Agnes Barsi, were subjected to constant abuse at the hands of Judith’s father, Jozsef Barsi. As Judith gained more fame with the help of her devoted mother, Jozsef became increasingly abusive, jealous and paranoid. Before Judith’s career took off, the family had been living on welfare and struggled financially.
The vast improvement Judith’s fame brought to their new lifestyle was not enough to stop Jozsef from abusing Judith and Maria. Outside of the home Jozsef seemed to adore Judith, calling her “Little One”. However, as the abuse worsened, it began to spill out in front of neighbors, who described Jozsef as often becoming inexplicably angry with the little girl. One neighbor recalls an afternoon when Maria had arrived home with a kite for Judith. As 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 neighbor 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 tiny pieces.
A friend of Jozsef’s, Peter Kivlen, recalls Jozsef saying that he would kill Maria. When Kivlen asked “If you kill her, what will happen to your Little One?”, to which Jozsef responded, “I gotta kill her too.”
Judith was terrified of her father, and justly so. When she was cast to be in the movie Jaws IV: The Revenge, her and Maria had to travel to the Bahamas to film the movie on location. Before they left, Jozsef gave his little girl some words of advice. With a knife held to her neck, he warned Judith, “If you decide not to come back, I will find you and I will cut your throat.”
When Judith and Maria 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!” Terrified, Judith burst into tears and ran into a bedroom. When Maria and Judith returned home, the cycle of abuse continued. Jozsef would rage against his daughter and then apologize profusely buying her gifts to “make up” for his actions. Once while the family was hosting a party, Jozsef became jealous of all the attention Judith was receiving. When he was alone with Judith in the kitchen, he pulled her hair in a rage while calling her a ‘damn brat’. He then went out and bought her a pink television set as an attempt at an apology.
Jozsef’s reign of terror continued as he constantly threatened to kill himself, Maria and Judith. He was a raging alcoholic which led to three arrests for DUI. In December of 1986, Maria finally stepped forward and reported the abuse to police. Now here is the first thing that really gets to me, after the abuse was originally reported, police stated they found no signs of physical abuse and Maria decided to not press charges against Jozsef. If only something had been done when Maria had the courage to step forward, I would not need to be writing this story today. Jozsef allegedly cut back on the drinking after the report was made, but continued with the constant abuse and threats. He would threaten to cut Judith and Maria’s throats and burn down the house. At one point, he hid a telegram for Maria telling her that a family member in Hungary passed away in an attempt to keep her and Judith in America.
The more severe the abuse became, the more warning signs Judith was showing. She had confessed to a friend that her father threw pots and pans at her causing a nosebleed. She also told a couple who were friends with the family, “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 recall the fear they also had of Joszef. They say that sometimes when they would knock on the door to see if Judith could come outside to play, he would say to them, “Oh that little ass? She’s not here.”
Judith began to put on weight and her behaviour became very disturbing. This once shining little girl became reclusive and began to self harm. Judith began plucking out all of her eyelashes and even pulled out all of her cat’s whiskers. After Judith broke down in front of her agent during a singing audition for All Dogs Go To Heaven, Maria brought her to a child psychologist. The psychologist quickly identified severe physical and emotional abuse as well as stating that Judith was very verbal about the ongoing abuse, and reported her findings to CPS.
This was another opportunity to get Judith help that was thrown away. The investigation was dropped when Maria assured the case worker that she was planning on divorcing Jozsef and moving her and Judith into an apartment she had recently rented as a daytime retreat from the abuse at home. Maria never followed through with her plan to leave.
On July 25, 1988, Jozsef walked into Judith’s room and shot her in the head as she slept. He then shot Maria as she stood in the hallway.
Jozsef spent the next couple of days wandering around the house with his wife and daughter’s bodies left where he had killed them. He spoke with Judith’s agent during this time and stated that he intended to move out for good, and he just wanted time “to say goodbye to my little girl”. He also told the agent that a car had taken his wife and daughter away. After the conversation, Jozsef doused Judith and Maria’s bodies with gasoline and attempted to set them on fire. He then went into the garage and shot himself in the head with the same .32 caliber pistol he used to murder his daughter and wife.
Neighbor Eunice Daly states she was shocked by an explosive noise and saw smoke rising from Barsi’s home. She recalls thinking “He’s done it. He’s killed them and set a fire in the house”. By the time fire fighters and first responders arrived, the interior of the home was destroyed.
When asking myself how this horror could have happened, I become outraged, however not surprised, by CPS’ failure to save Judith. In September of 1988, a county advisory panel stated that the Los Angeles County Department of Children’s Services dropped its investigation into the Barsi family prematurely. Now for the excuses – DCS’s Director, Robert L. Chaffee defended the department’s actions by stating that Maria Barsi had asked them to close the case.
OMG – I am seeing red. How can anyone with an IQ higher than that of a potato think that is ok? So if Christy Schaffer asked CPS to close the case, they would, and therefore would not be responsible for the death of Alissa Guernsey?! The excuses continue as Chaffee stated that the social worker assigned to Judith’s case had a total of 67 cases, 27 more than what is considered a full case load. I am sorry, but that does not justify closing a case because a parent involved in the matter asked you to. If anyone is asking themselves how our CPS system became so appalling, THIS is how. It has been happening for decades, and for decades we have not held anyone responsible for their negligence that has led to the deaths of thousands of children. We have allowed the system to become what it is, and we need to change this before we lose any more innocent children to these horrific deaths.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
Judith’s career continued forward even after her death. She starred doing voiceovers for The Land Before Time as Ducky and All Dogs Go To Heaven as Anne-Marie, both movies were released after her murder. Don Bluth, the director of The Land Before Time, was simply enchanted with Judith and the talent she exuded. He has said that he was intending to use her in his future films, but sadly he never got that chance. Despite only a handful of movie appearances, Judith left her mark. Any child who grew up watching The Land Before Time can hear that “Yep! Yep! Yep!” that makes you smile instantly. My sisters and I loved it so much as children that we named our lovebirds Ducky and Petrie. Judith’s voice is iconic, and the sweet, soft way she narrated the character Anne-Marie in All Dogs Go To Heaven changed the way every child spoke the name Charley.
On August 9, 1988, Judith and Maria Barsi were laid to rest in white caskets, in unmarked graves at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles. The graves went without headstones for 16 years before donations made by the public could purchase the headstones which were placed where mother and daughter lay beside each other.
Judith’s life was full of some incredible moments, and some moments that spoke of evil. At the time of her death at 10 years old, Judith had lived and accomplished more than most people will in their entire 80 year lives. She brought smiles to many who watched her blossom and grow on their TV sets at home. She captured America’s heart, and she will forever remain in our hearts as that beautiful little girl whose talent seemed endless.
This evening, I am going to honor Judith in the best way I know how. I am going to turn my computer off, shut off the lights in my office and close the door. I am going to pop a ridiculous amount of popcorn, and I am going to snuggle in with my three boys while we watch All Dogs Go To Heaven. Each time I hear their giggles, I am going to send a silent thank you up to Judith, for the sound of their laughter, is the most incredible gift I could ever receive, and at that moment, it is Judith who has given me that gift.