Hey, everyone. It’s time for another Mystery Monday post. You may not recognize the name Bobby Fuller but many will remember the mid-1960s hit single, “I Fought the Law (And the Law Won).”
The Bobby Fuller Four was a popular rock and roll band in the 1960s, originally from El Paso, Texas. The lead singer’s idols were Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, and fellow Texan Buddy Holly. Bobby first recorded “I Fought the Law” in 1964 where it became a regional hit in New Mexico and West Texas.
The hit version was re-recorded in 1965 with Del-Fi Records. It charted at number nine in the United States and at number thirty-four in Great Britain. By mid-1966, the group was headlining at hot spots across the country. It seemed fame was within their grasp.
But on July 18, 1966, the body of Bobby Fuller was found in the front seat of his car in Hollywood.
Bob Keene, owner and president of Del-Fi said, “Bobby was one of the most on-purpose musicians I’ve ever met in my life. He was gonna be it. He was gonna do it.”
Fuller’s younger brother Randy stated, “They said he’d have been like Elvis Presley. Everybody that knew him would describe him as a musical genius.”
Police suggested Bobby committed suicide but those close to him denied the possibility. Radio host Casey Kasem said, “When I heard Bobby was dead and that somebody had said he had committed suicide, I said, ‘That’s not the Bobby I know.’ I mean, here was a man who had everything to live for.”
The suicide theory doesn’t seem plausible. When his body was discovered, he was in full rigor mortis, suggesting he had been dead for several hours. However, his mother said Bobby’s car had been gone all day. It wasn’t until 5:00 p.m. when she checked the mail that she discovered the car.
As pop music critic Edna Gunderson said, “The problem here is that dead men don’t drive cars, and that car got into that lot and Bobby did not drive it. So the question is, who did? Where did it come from? Why did they bring it back? Where did they go?”
There was blood on Bobby’s face and chest as well as the front seat of the car. His body and clothes were soaked in gasoline. A partially filled gas can with a rubber hose attached was on the floorboard.
Bob Keene arrived while police were still investigating. “At about the same time I got there, the plain-clothes detective threw the can of gas in the dumpster. He said, ‘It’s just another rock and roll punk. He committed suicide or something like that.’ The police department didn’t do anything. They didn’t take prints. They didn’t ask any questions of anybody. It was just like he was a bum off the street.”
At first, it was believed Bobby died due to drinking gasoline, but the autopsy revealed no gasoline in his stomach. His death was then attributed to inhaling gasoline fumes.
According to Edna Gunderson, the coroner’s report had discrepancies. “On one page, it’s marked an accident. On another page, there’s a question mark next to the word ‘accident,’ and a question mark next to the word ‘suicide.’ There was nothing conclusive to suggest that Bobby had committed suicide. The other unusual aspect of this case was that Bobby looked as if he had been beaten up. Now, some of this could’ve been the result of the early decomposition of the body, or it could’ve been earlier injuries, bruises, what have you. But two or three people said that he had a broken finger and that there was blood on his shirt.”
Some believed Bobby was murdered. He had been seeing a mysterious young woman named Melody who was thought to have a boyfriend with ties to the mob. Bobby planned to attend a party with Melody the night before his death.
This led to rumors of a drug overdose but there was no evidence of drugs in his body. No one could explain why he was doused with gasoline or how the car got back to his apartment.
Randy Fuller said, “My mother went to her grave with a broken heart. And I hurt every day over this. Somebody out there knows something, and I just wish I could know.”
Bobby’s death was later changed from suicide to accident. But what really happened is still a mystery. Did police botch the investigation? What do you think?