The only child of Jozsef Barsi and Maria Benko, Judith Eva Barsi beat 10,000-to-1 odds when she was discovered at a San Fernando Valley skating rink at age 5 1/2 in 1983 and mistaken for a three-year-old. Her first commercial was for Donald Duck Orange Juice and she went on to appear in anywhere between fifty and a hundred commercials, several episodes of various T.V. series, and three major motion pictures. Her mother Maria was the main thrust of her career as a Hollywood starlet, but also took great pains to try to give her a normal, happy childhood; bringing her Hungarian meals like duck for her school lunch. But this happy childhood did not last long. Beginning in 1985, Jozsef would often be home drunk instead of working as a plumber, and he refused to let Maria work. As a result, the family briefly went on welfare until Judith’s career took off in 1986 and 1987. By the time she entered fourth grade, she was pulling in an estimated $100,000 a year, which bought her family a nice four-bedroom house on a quiet street in West Hill. As her career soared, her father became an increasingly abusive recluse who constantly threatened to kill his wife and daughter. In stressful moods Judith bit her nails and plucked out her eyebrows and eyelashes and her cats’ whiskers. C.P.S. was called in numerous times, but as Maria was reluctant to press charges and many of the reports/accounts were emotional and not physical abuse, the case was not pursued.
On Wednesday, July 27th, Eunice Daly, a next-door neighbor, heard a loud bang next door while watering her plants. The house had been set on fire, and later the Barsis’ bodies were discovered shot dead. All of Judith’s toys that were not destroyed by the fire were given to the local Goodwill, and her best friend continued to feed her cats for months afterward.
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