Victim Date of Birth
Date of Death
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles, California
Date of Conviction
Body Discovered Date
Movie star Lana Turner was dating mobster Johnny Stompanato in 1958. During a violent argument one night Lana Turner’s teenage daughter stabbed Stompanato fearing for her life. Were Cheryl Crane’s actions justified? Was she the one who even stabbed Stompanto or was Lana Turner forcing her daughter to take the fall for her?
Who is Cheryl Christina Crane?
Cheryl Crane was the child of actress Lana Turner in 1943. In 1936 when Cheryl’s movie star mother Lana was younger, she was discovered by an agent at a pharmacy. Lana Turner starred in films such as They Won’t Forget and Johnny Eager. The Hollywood starlet was known for more than her film roles; Lana Turner was also famous for her many marriages.
Each of Lana Turner’s eight marriages was tumultuous. She once married the same person twice! Lana gave birth to Cheryl when she was married to actor-turned restaurateur Steve Crane. The couple divorced in 1944, and Cheryl was raised in Los Angeles, California. Cheryl Crane vied for her mother’s attention, who would usually rebuff the young girl. Whenever Cheryl attempted to kiss or hug her mother, Lana reminded her not to touch her hair and makeup.
In 1954 Lana Turner married Lex Barker, best known for playing Tarzan in the RKO films. Cheryl was a flower girl at her mother’s wedding to Lex, but soon after Lana and Lex exchanged nuptials, Cheryl’s stepfather changed. According to Cheryl, her stepfather Lex Barker molested her from age ten to thirteen.
The molestation escalated to full-on sexual assault when Lex started to sneak into Cheryl’s bed at night. One assault Lex inflicted on Cheryl required the girl to get stitches. Afraid to confide the truth about the abuse to her mother, Cheryl instead turned to her grandmother Lana’s mother. Cheryl’s grandmother told Lana the truth, and Lana promptly divorced Lex, never revealing the reason behind the divorce.
Murder of Johnny Stompano
While Lana Turner filmed a movie in 1957, she began to receive attention from Mobster and former Marine Johnny Stompanato. Johnny Stompanato aggressively pursued Lana. He constantly called her even though Lana had no idea how Stompanato got her phone number and sent flowers to her daily.
Lana Turner and Johnny Stompanato soon entered a violent relationship. They were always fighting, breaking up, and getting back together. Stompanato was physically and verbally violent with Lana. While Lana was filming a movie in London, Stompanato stormed onto the film set and attempted to strangle her. Actor Sean Connery forced Stompanato off of the actress, and Stompanato was then deported from the United Kingdom.
Lana Turner starred in the hit Hollywood movie Peyton Place in 1957. In addition, to numerous other nominations, Lana was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Peyton Place. Instead of taking Stompanato to the event, Lana took her daughter Cheryl which angered Stompanato. That night Lana informed Cheryl by the beginning of April, she would be leaving Stompanato for good.
On April 1, Lana and Cheryl moved into a mansion on North Bedford Drive, leaving Stompanato behind. At around 7:30 PM on April 4, Stompanato went to the North Bedford house and threatened to murder Lana, Cheryl, and Lana’s, mother. Stompanato threatened to use a straight razor to carve Lana’s face.
During the fight between Lana and Stompanato, Cheryl entered but was told to leave the room by her mother. Lana told Cheryl that she was finally ending things with Stompanato and to wait in her room. Cheryl could still hear her mother fighting with Stompanato, and his threats scared the fourteen-year-old girl. Fearing the man would hurt her mother, Cheryl grabbed a kitchen knife from the kitchen counter and stabbed Stompanato in the chest. He instantly fell to the floor and died.
After stabbing Stompanato, Cheryl phoned her father. Lana Turner summoned a doctor to the home who tried to revive Stompanato, but his efforts were fruitless. An autopsy determined the single knife wound tore through Stompanato’s liver, veins, and aorta, causing massive internal bleeding.
Cheryl Crane’s Confession
Cheryl Crane was held at a juvenile detention center after the murder of Stompanato. Newspapers reported many believed Lana was the actual murderer of Stompanato and was having Cheryl take the fall for her. Despite the many rumors, Cheryl claimed she was the only person who stabbed Stompanato.
Even though Cheryl was only fourteen years old, she faced a life sentence if convicted of murdering Stompanato. A few days after Stompanato’s death, Cheryl took to the witness stand at a pre-trial hearing and tearfully recounted the night of April 4. Cheryl spoke for almost an hour, telling the court how Stompanato was scary and violent and threatened to kill her and her mother.
Exoneration and Life After Stompanto’s Murder
On April 11, 1958, at the coroner’s inquest, 14-year-old Cheryl Crane was exonerated for the murder of Stompanato. The jury deemed Stompanato’s death a justifiable homicide. Cheryl was released into her grandmother’s care and ordered by a judge to see a psychiatrist with her parents.
Cheryl’s father b-movie actor Steve Crane pursued full custody of his 14-year-old Crane after her exoneration. Stampato’s brother filed a wrongful death suit in 1958. During her life, Cheryl tried to commit suicide several times and abused drugs and alcohol. Still, she made it through that part of her life and started to work in her father’s restaurant.
In 1988 Cheryl published a memoir in which she alleged Stampanto was sexually abusing her. She is a mystery author and wrote a biography on her mother’s life. Lana Turner died in 1996 after a battle with cancer. Cheryl has been with her partner Jocelyn “Josh” Leroy for decades. Josh Leroy and Cheryl Crane married in 2014.
Time magazine called the murder of Johnny Stompanato one of the crimes of the century in 2007. Historians think the murder is just as infamous as the suspicious death of Marilyn Monroe and the O.J Simpson trial. Some still believe Lana Turner was the one who stabbed Stompanato and Cheryl took the blame. To this day, Cheryl denies this and says her mother had nothing to do with the stabbing.
A book published in 1962, Where Has the Love Gone, is a fictional account of Stomapanto’s death. Two years later, Bette David starred in the film adaption.
Frequently Asked Questions
What did Lana Turner die from?
Lana Turner, star of Peyton Place, died from oral cancer in June 1996. Her daughter Cheryl was at her side as she passed away.
Who is Cheryl Crane’s father?
Cheryl Crane’s father was actor-restaurateur Stephen Crane.
What nationality was Lana Turner?
Lana Turner was a stylish American actress who was born Julia Jean Mildred Francis Turner.