July 19, 1998
By Robert Seltzer
El Paso Times
Bobby Fuller died 32 years ago, on July 18, 1966, but to his friends and relatives, the death remains as painful and vivid as this morning's obituary section.
Fuller was found slumped in the front seat of his car, a can of gasoline by his side, outside his apartment in Hollywood.
Police concluded the death, due to inhalation of gasoline, was either a suicide or an accident.
Friends and family dispute that report, and the theories on the death are as varied as the individuals expressing them - including the theory that Fuller was murdered by an organized crime figure who became jealous because his girlfriend was attracted to the rock 'n' roller.
"There's a lot of speculation," said Rod Crosby, a friend and rival musician. "But we'll never know what really happened."
Police discovered blood and abrasions on the body, and skeptics point to that discovery as proof that the death was neither an accident nor a suicide.
"Who would pour gas on himself in a hot car?" Randy Fuller, the younger brother of the deceased rock star, asked rhetorically. "I just think he got in a bad situation that night, met the wrong dude and couldn't get out of it. I'm 99.9 percent sure that it wasn't an accident or a suicide."
"He was not street-smart, so he did hurt himself, from the standpoint of not knowing how ugly things could be in LA," Crosby said.
"Story has it that he was having a fling with the girl of a low-level mobster. He wasn't aware of that until it was too late. My theory is that they just wanted to work him over, but things went awry. So it wasn't the result of organized crime so much as disorganized crime. ... But nothing's going to happen now, more than 30 years later. We'll just never know what really happened."
Lorraine Fuller, who was 79 when she died of a heart attack in 1989, was staying with her sons in Hollywood at the time Bobby Fuller died.
"Bobby would never have taken his own life," Randy Fuller said. "He would never have done that to my mother."
Boyd Elder, who had known Fuller since the late 1950s, was attending art school in Los Angeles when Fuller died.
"He was not self-destructive at all," said Elder, a graduate of Burges High who now lives in Valentine, Texas. "He seldom even drank. He was polite and gentlemanly, and the girls loved him. He was on his way to stardom. Whatever happened, it wasn't suicide."
The death remains shrouded in so much mystery that E, the Entertainment Channel, plans to produce a program on Fuller.
"Shooting will begin in the late fall," said Keith Fenimore, a public relations official for the cable network. "I'm not sure if they'll shoot in El Paso, and I'm not sure when it will air."