LOS ANGELES -- After a night of drinking with a female friend, comic Phil Hartman's wife returned to the couple's home early Thursday morning, shot him to death as he slept, then went to a male friend's house for several hours before returning home and taking her own life, police sources said Friday.
Brynn Hartman left behind one or possibly both of her two young children when she fled after shooting her husband twice in the head and once in the body at 2 a.m., the sources said.
Upon arriving at the male friend's house, a distraught and all but incoherent Brynn Hartman said she had shot her husband -- a story the friend did not initially believe, the sources said. She fell asleep, and, at some point, the friend checked her purse and found a handgun, which he confiscated.
When Brynn Hartman awoke a few hours after the shooting, she and the friend went to her home in the Encino district of Los Angeles, sources said. Once there, Brynn Hartman apparently obtained a second handgun and locked herself in the couple's bedroom with her husband's body.
The male friend, whose relationship with Brynn Hartman was unclear, called 911 at about 6: 20 a.m. He was escorting 9-year-old Sean Hartman from the home when police arrived on the scene. The responding officers were in the process of whisking 6-year-old Birgen from the home when Brynn Hartman took her own life.
Phil Hartman showed no signs of struggling with his wife, the sources said.
"It was an execution," one source said.
Coroner's spokesman Craig Harvey has said police retrieved two handguns from the home.
After the shooting, Andrea and Joel Diamond, friends of the Hartmans, joined the Hartman children at the Los Angeles Police Department's West Valley Station and took them to nearby West Valley Park.
"They were both crying and looked kind of numb," Joel Diamond said.
Family members, who had taken custody of the Hartman children by Friday, could not be reached for comment late Friday.
In the wake of the murder-suicide, several friends of the family painted the 11-year marriage of Phil and Brynn Hartman as an often-troubled union. And at least two of the actor's friends said the couple's disputes were often sparked by Brynn's volatile temper and fueled by her problems with drugs and alcohol.
Recounting conversations with Phil Hartman, these friends said the laid-back actor usually would deal with the arguments by rolling over and going to sleep, letting his wife exhaust her anger alone.
The friends said that pattern might have repeated itself in the early hours of Thursday morning -- this time, with deadly results.
According to one friend, the comedian said his wife had checked into an out-of-state treatment center for cocaine addiction as recently as a year ago.
The couple occasionally had fights during which Brynn -- a 41-year-old former model from Thief River Falls, Minn. -- would strike out, "slapping, throwing, kicking, screaming," one friend said, recounting a discussion with the actor. Friends said Brynn sometimes felt that she was being ignored by her 49-year-old husband, whose career had taken off again with a starring role in the NBC situation comedy "NewsRadio," a central role in the forthcoming "Small Soldiers," and regular voice-over work on Fox's animated series "The Simpsons."
Pub Date: 5/31/98