As long as there are athletes with too much money and time on their hands, there will be athletes accused of, and sometimes convicted, of heinous crimes. In some cases, that crime is murder.
But any criminal psychologist will tell you that offenders don’t commit murder first and that there is a pattern of sociopathic and or psychopathic behavior escalating to murder.
One of the most bizarre cases involving an professional athlete was that of former NHL player Mike Danton. Danton was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, on his former agent David Frost. The sordid story centered around the controlling relationship Frost had with Danton and some of his former teammates.
After being released from prison, Danton said Frost was never his intended target and revelations emerged that Danton called Frost a week after being arrested. In a taped conversation, Frost told Danton to plead guilty and demanded that Danton say he loved him before ending the call. It only got weirder from there.
The Danton case never did end in murder, but for some athletes, murder was the focal point of an accusation and for some, conviction for it. Here are 10 high profile athletes accused of murder.
10. Dany Heatley, NHL – Vehicular homicide
Heatley was a budding star in the National Hockey League, coming off a 41-goal season with the Atlanta Thrashers in 2003 when he was involved in a life-altering car accident. During training camp in September of that year, he was with teammate Dan Snyder, tooling around in his Ferrari 360 Modena at speeds well above the posted limit of 35. He lost control and crashed into a brick pillar and iron post fence, causing fatal injuries to Snyder who would die six days later. Heatley pleaded guilty to second degree vehicular manslaughter and a host of driving infractions. He got three years probation and lengthy community service for his crimes.
9. Carlos Monzon, Boxing – Homicide
Being known as “the Shotgun” was foretelling for the late Argentine world middleweight champion boxer. He was a household name in Argentina, owning the championship belt for seven years, successfully defending it 14 times. But in the early 70s, pursued relentlessly by paparazzi, his personal life began to unravel. He was shot in the leg by his wife in 1973 and had a tumultuous affair with actress Susana Gimenez, which included allegations of physical abuse. After splitting with Gimenez in 1978 he soon started dating Uruguayan model Alicia Muniz. He abused her too and eventually murdered her while on vacation in Plata del Mar in 1979, beating her and throwing her off a balcony. He wasn’t convicted of the murder until 1989, receiving 11 years in prison.
8. Jayson Williams, NBA – Reckless manslaughter
The former first round-pick of the Phoenix Suns (1990) exhibited a pattern of behavior early in his career that would soon escalate. While with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1992, he was accused of breaking a beer mug over another man’s head in a Chicago bar, and in 1994 he was accused of firing a semi-automatic weapon in the parking lot of the Meadowlands Complex in New Jersey. His fateful crime came in 2002, when his limo driver, Gus Christofi was shot and killed at Williams estate in New Jersey. Williams was playing around with a shotgun when it went off, killing Christofi. Williams was acquitted of reckless manslaughter charges but convicted of a cover up. An appeal was launched by the state and after many lengthy delays, Williams pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and was sentenced to five years in prison.
7. Rae Carruth, NFL – First degree murder
Of all the crimes committed here, Carruth’s is among the most vicious. The former Carolina Panthers receiver was dating a local real estate agent Cherica Adams, who became pregnant by him. When Adams was eight months pregnant, Carruth hired a hit man, Van Brett Watkins, to kill her because she refused to have an abortion. The hit took place near Carruth’s home in Charlotte, which he set up by following Adams in her car and blocking her in, allowing Watkins to drive by and shoot her. Carruth fled the scene, but Adams lived long enough to tell police that Carruth had taken part in the crime. He posted bail but when Adams died, he fled again and was found in the trunk of a car a few days later. The unborn baby was delivered alive by Caesarean. Carruth was charged with first degree murder but was ultimately convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and sentenced to a maximum 24 years in 2000.
6. Mark “Gator” Rogowski, Skateboarding – First-degree murder
In the 1980s, there were few bigger names in skateboarding that Gator Rogowski, Tony Hawk and Christian Hosoi. Gator was so huge that he was earning upwards of $14,000 per month just for a trucks endorsement deal. He was an unparalleled “vert” ramp skater, who would soon turn out to have a very dark, dark side. He met Brandi McClain and model Jessica Bergsten in 1987 and soon began dating McClain. They dated four years before McClain left him, which caused him to spiral downward and lead to him threatening her and her new boyfriend. Around the time of his creepy behavior in 1991, Bergsten called unexpectedly and the two met up. They hung out for a while and then Gator attacked her, knocking her unconscious with a metal bar. He raped her, strangled her to death and dumped her body in the desert. He pleaded guilty to her murder and rape and was spared the death penalty. He got 31 years in 1992.
5. Ray Lewis, NFL – Murder
Ray Lewis was a two-time champion, Super Bowl MVP and 13-time Pro Bowler for some very good Baltimore Ravens teams. Some would also say he got away with murder — or bought his way out of it. Following a Super Bowl party in Atlanta in January 2000, Lewis and companions Reg Oakley and Joe Sweeting got into a fight, which resulted in the deaths of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar. Charged with murder and aggravated assault, Lewis arranged a plea deal to a misdemeanor of obstruction of justice in exchange for testimony against Oakley and Sweeting. None of the men were ever convicted of murder and Lewis would go on to win the Super Bowl MVP in 2001. He later reached a settlement with four-year old India Lollar, born after the killing of her father, to avoid a lengthy wrongful death suit.
4. Oscar Pistorius, Olympic Sprinter – Premeditated Murder
The ‘Blade Runner’ made a name for himself as first a Paralympic and later Olympic sprinter. The South African double amputee would use his prosthetics, which resemble blades, to run his way to glory at the 2012 Olympic Games in London and the following Paralympic Games. All that fame came with perks, one of them being able to date South African model Reeva Steenkamp. On Valentine’s Day 2013, Pistorius would shoot Steenkamp to death in his Pretoria home, claiming he thought she was an intruder. He was found guilty of the lesser charge culpable homicide in 2014 and sentenced to five years in prison, which the prosecution considered light. However, the prosecution appealed successfully and a re-trial has been ordered.
3. Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, Boxing – First-degree murder
Carter was wrongly convicted, but not without spending a lengthy amount of time in prison. A one time ranked middleweight fighter, he would ultimately inspire Bob Dylan to pen a song about him (Hurricane) and have Denzel Washington play him in a movie. His only crime at the time of a double-murder in a bar in Paterson, New Jersey in 1966, was driving while black. Carter was charged with two counts of first degree murder and convicted in basically a rigged case on unreliable eyewitness statements and later scandalized police work. The people that fingered him for the murders recanted their testimony, but Carter stayed in prison until 1985, after being convicted twice on the same flimsy circumstantial evidence.
2. Aaron Hernandez, NFL – First-degree murder
Word came down just this week that Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder and as of today was being processed at a maximum security facility mere minutes from Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. The former blue chip tight end for the New England Patriots was tried and convicted for the 2013 murder of his friend Odin Lloyd, whose body was found in an industrial park not far from Hernandez home in Massachusetts. He tried to cover up the murder, having his house cleaned thoroughly and having his girlfriend (unknowingly) dispose of evidence, like the murder weapon. He received a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.
1. O.J. Simpson, NFL – First-degree murder
One of the most polarizing — and publicized — criminal trials in the history of the United States involved a former superstar running back, a vicious double murder, a supporting cast of famous attorneys and ultimately an acquittal that split the country in two. The ‘Trial of the Century’ also involved egregious errors by police in handling evidence, a prime-time broadcast police chase and a high profile cop accused of being a racist. Ultimately, O.J. would be acquitted before a live television audience for the extremely brutal murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. Simpson would walk free, with many feeling he got away with murder, but he is now serving time for kidnapping.