It became one of Hollywood’s most notorious scandals ever — Lana Turner’s relationship with Johnny Stompanato, an abusive mobster she dated until her 14-year-old daughter, Cheryl Crane, stabbed him to death in 1958 in an attempt to protect her mother.
Lana and Cheryl survived the experience, and 20 years after Lana’s death on June 29, 1995, the woman who co-wrote one of the only authorized accounts of Cheryl’s experience is sharing new details about the murder and Lana’s relationship with her daughter.
Lana and Johnny in 1958. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
“It was a crazy time,” says Cindy De La Hoz, co-author of 2008’s Lana: The Memories, the Myths, the Movies, with Cheryl, who gave her full access to the family’s records. “Going through such a harrowing experience bonded them.”
Before the killing, Lana was distant, more interested in her career than her child. “She was always off being Lana Turner,” Cindy says. “Cheryl idolized her mom and would go into her dressing room and smell her clothes when she was away.”
Lana in 1958. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
When Cheryl plunged a carving knife into Johnny’s stomach, “she ran into her room and curled up in the bed crying,” Cindy says. “Lana ran to protect Cheryl right away.”
The sensational trial that followed included Lana’s tearful testimony, and the killing was ultimately ruled justifiable homicide. Still, Cheryl was made a ward of the state and spent time in a juvenile prison as well as a mental hospital in her teens. Meanwhile, Lana’s career flourished: She had the biggest hit of her career with 1959’s Imitation of Life, playing an ambitious actress who’s also a neglectful mother.
To read the full story on Lana, pick up the new issue of Closer Weekly on newsstands now!