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New Book Claims Lana Turner Killed Her Mobster Boyfriend and Let Daughter Take the Blame

Turner's daughter, Cheryl Crane, admitted to killing Johnny Stompanato in self-defense in 1958.

One of the most unbelievable stories to come out of Hollywood in the late '50s was that of the death of Lana Turner's boyfriend, Johnny Stompanato. On April 4, 1958, Turner's 14-year-old daughter, Cheryl Crane, stabbed Stompanato to death during a domestic abuse incident, in which Crane was defending her mother. When the case went to trial, the killing was ruled a "justifiable homicide," and Crane was acquitted. Still, the media remained fascinated by the case for years, and both Turner and Crane wrote about it in their respective memoirs. Now, the story is being told again in the book A Murder in Hollywood: The Untold Story of Tinseltown's Most Shocking Crime by Casey Sherman. The author says he's uncovered new information about Stompanato's intentions with Turner—and argues that it may have been Turner herself who was actually wielding the knife.

RELATED: Sammy Davis Jr.'s Relationship With This Star Led to a Mob Threat on His Life.

Sherman's book claims that not only was Stompanato abusive toward Turner, but he was also attempting to extort her. As reported by the New York Post, the author writes that Stompanato was working with mobster Mickey Cohen, and that they planned to capture footage of Turner involved in a sexual act in order to blackmail her.

"The two gangsters reverse engineered the classic honey trap scheme, using Stompanato as bait to lure Lana into bed," Sherman writes. "They would need to stage a threesome of some kind while Cohen's men surreptitiously filmed the sex act. They would then use that fear, hanging it over the actress's head while siphoning off loads of cash from her bank account," the book continues. But, Stompanato actually fell for Turner, according to Sherman. "The game had changed. He was no longer interested in blackmail or sex movies."

Lana Turner, Johnny Stompanato, and Cheryl Crane in late 1950s
Bettmann / Getty Images

Sherman explained to Fox News Digital, "I recount in the book that Lana's lawyer, after Johnny Stompanato's death, had uncovered films of Lana in compromised situations. Lana believed Johnny Stompanato had drugged her and put her in bed with other females and would've used that as extortion to get her to pay Mickey Cohen large sums of money to keep him quiet. But I don't think Johnny ever realized that Lana would have done anything to protect her family."

Sherman believes what has become a conspiracy theory about the case, which is that Turner was the one who actually killed Stompanato, but Crane took the blame because she was a minor and wouldn't be sentenced as harshly. The story told in court was that Crane heard Stompanato fighting with her mother, so she grabbed a knife from their kitchen. Crane claimed Stompanato then walked into the knife during the dispute because of how it was positioned. "With one thrust, the blade penetrated his abdomen, slicing into one of his kidneys, striking a vertebra, and puncturing his aorta," Sherman writes. "Seconds later, Johnny Stompanato, gangster, conman, and abuser, was dead."

Sherman told People in a recent interview, "I strongly believe Lana Turner killed Johnny Stompanato, but I think she did so in the ultimate attempts to protect her family, her mother and her daughter." The author claims that Stompanato said he would kill Turner, as well as her family.

"I think when Johnny Stompanato threatened to kill Cheryl, as you read about in the book, and kill [mother] Mildred [Cowan], Lana was painted into a corner and Lana had to fight back," Sherman said to the outlet.

Turner passed away in 1995 at the age of 74. Crane, who Turner welcomed with her second husband Steve Crane, is still alive and is now 80 years old.

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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