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Murder of actress and Playboy model Dorothy Stratten by ex-husband Paul Snider examined on 20/20 on ID

Photo shoot of Dorothy Stratten
Dorothy Stratten had found fame as a Playboy model but was transitioning into a movie star. Pic credit: Fair use

20/20 on ID is airing a two-part special this week on the murder of actor and Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratten, who was killed by her estranged husband Paul Snider in Los Angeles in 1980.

Stratten was just 20 years old and was at the start of a potentially glittering career in Hollywood when her ex-husband ended her life out of jealously that he was being left behind.

Snider was working as a local promoter and a pimp in 1978 when he first encountered the teenage Dorothy Stratten working in a Vancouver Dairy Queen. The older man charmed and groomed her into becoming a nude model and his lover.

Stratten was considered incredibly good-looking, and when Snider sent pictures of her to Playboy Magazine, they named her Miss August 1979. Playboy followed that by naming her Playmate of the Year 1980.

Meanwhile, the pair got married in 1979 and moved to Los Angeles. Their marriage was viewed from the start as troubled, and many believe Stratten only married him because she felt she owed him for helping to make her famous.

Snider was disliked by the others in their LA social circle, he was seen as cheap and lacking class. He was also obsessively jealous about Stratton, despite his own attempts to cheat on her with other women.

Stratton’s career began to reach new heights of fame as she started receiving acting roles. She landed parts in films, such as They All Laughed and TV shows like Fantasy Island and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

Stratten and Snider’s relationship deteriorated as she grew more famous

The more famous she became, the more her marriage to Stratton began to unravel, and the more jealous he became. The pair eventually separated in 1980, but Snider felt unable to move on; he even hired a private investigator to follow Stratton around Los Angeles.

On August 14, 1980, Stratten went to a meeting with Snider at his west Los Angeles home to discuss officially ending their marriage. When Snider’s roommates returned to the house, they discovered that both Stratten and her estranged husband had been killed by shotgun blasts.

Stratten had suffered a gunshot wound to the face, and Snider was found lying on top of the murder weapon. Both bodies were nude. The police concluded that Snider had shot his ex-wife within an hour on her arrival and had then shot himself about an hour later.

More from 20/20 on ID

Follow the links to read about more crimes profiled on 20/20 on ID.

SNL stalwart and The Simpsons actor Phil Hartman was tragically murdered by his wife Brynn Omdahl as he slept in their bed. Omdahl would later turn the gun on herself, leaving their children orphans.

Amy Fisher was just 16-years-old when she began an affair with the middle-aged and married Joey Buttafuoco. A year later, the teenager was so consumed with jealously that she shot his wife, Mary Jo Buttafuoco, on the porch of her New York home.

20/20 on ID airs in 2 parts from 8/7c on Investigation Discovery.

Jerry Brown


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