Phil Hartman’s Ex-Wife Brynn Hartman: Truth About The Mysterious Murder

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  • Post last modified:May 10, 2022
Phil Hartman’s Ex-Wife Brynn Hartman: Truth About The Mysterious Murder

Brynn Hartman was an actress, known for North (1994), 3rd Rock from the Sun (1996), and E! True Hollywood Story (1996). She is also famous as the wife of the late actor, Phil Hartman. Brynn’s husband, Hartman, was a member of Saturday Night Live and also worked on The Simpsons.

Phil had also starred in such movies as 1994’s Greedy (with Michael J. Fox) and 1996’s Sgt. Bilko (opposite Steve Martin). He additionally worked with The Groundlings and on shows like Captain Carl and The Pee-Wee Herman Show. The late Mrs. Hartman was married to Emmy-winning actor Phil Hartman from 1987 to 1998. What’s more talked-about or what will perpetually be talked about in the case of the Hartman couple is they both died in one of the most chilling murder-suicide cases in the nation.

It was Brynn who infamously killed her actor husband Phil and shortly killed herself the same night at their home in 1998. The murder-suicide rocked Hollywood and many are still wondering why it had to happen. Phil’s death took place just six months after the Tommy Boy actor Chris Farley’s passing. Mr. Hartman’s death questioned his straight-laced everyman reputation. The incident was a shocker by all standards.

In the decades since the horrifying deaths took place in the early hours of May 1998, people continue to speculate on all the bizarre things about the situation of Phil Hartman and Brynn Hartman. There certainly are details that are undeniable and known about the case, such as Brynn Hartman’s murder of her husband in the bedroom of their Encino home and the gun that she used to kill Phil.

There, however, are other specifics that are less tangible and which continue to appear vague even to this day. Tabloids are still brutally enthusiastic about digging up as much dirt as possible on the alleged “marital discord” of the Hartmans.

Get endless insights into the facts and speculations surrounding the tragedy, the potential motives of Brynn Hartman for killing Phil, each of the couple’s families’ perceptions of what happened, the aftermaths, and all. En route, also know the detailed story of Phil Hartman’s wife, Brynn Hartman; her early life, parents, siblings, career, the tragic relationship, and further.

Brynn Hartman Birthplace, Parents, Siblings

The tall blonde actress Brynn Hartman (birth name, Vicki Jo Omdahl) was born in April 1958, in Thief River Falls in Minnesota. She was the daughter of Donny, a former engineer who later became a partner in the Lantern, a popular Thief River Falls restaurant.

Ex-SNL member and late actor Phil Hartman's wife Brynn Hartman.
Late actor Phil Hartman’s killer and wife Brynn Hartman.

Her mother Connie, on the other hand, ran a retail shop. Mrs. Hartman grew up in a family of four children though only two of her siblings are known, Katherine Omdahl and Gregory Omdahl.

Her brother, Greg, said they had an “idyllic childhood.” Gregory once also revealed his late sister was always the instigator of fun.

Vicki studied at Lincoln High School and her principal once described her as “just another student, an ordinary young lady,” Brynn, however, dropped out of high school, married, and divorced her first husband Doug Torfin, a telephone operator.

After that, she did some modeling in Minneapolis before heading to California.

Brynn Hartman First Marriage

Before Phil Hartman, Brynn was married to Douglas Iver Torfin. She was her wife from 20 May 1977 to 4 December 1979.

Brynn Career As A Model And An Actress 

Brynn Omdahl moved to Los Angeles in her 20s with dreams of becoming a model and actress.

The Minnesota-born woman was tall, blonde, and had aspirations of becoming an actress or model. In the mid-80s, she signed with a modeling agency, which helped her find work as a swimsuit model for Catalina swimwear.

1994 film Greedy actor Phil Hartman's wife and 3rd Rock From The Sun actress Brynn Hartman.
North actress Brynn Hartman – the murderer of Phil Hartman.

Meanwhile, she also went on auditions whilst taking some acting lessons. Her brother, in an interview, said Vicki was gonna try out for ‘Hee Haw,’ to be one of the ‘Hee Haw’ girls that pops out of the corn stalks.

While Hartman’s wife appeared in a few swimsuit campaigns, her on-screen career never took off. She only got to appear in two standard projects; as a waitress in the 1994 movie North, and as Venusian #1 in the series 3rd Rock From The Sun.

Brynn Changed Her Name Several Times 

Brynn had a knack for trying new monikers. She was once Vicki, then Vicki Jo, then Brindon, and finally Brynn. Explaining the reason behind her constant name changing, a friend of hers who had known her since she was 19 remarked,

“She was always looking to find herself. When I met her, she was Vicki; then she became Vicki Jo, then Brindon and then Brynn. I’d laugh and say, ‘Who are you this week?’

Brynn Hartman Was A Drug Addict

During her time in L.A. in the 1980s, her brother, Greg in an interview said Brynn developed an addiction to cocaine.

“She had a problem with cocaine. She did too much cocaine,”

said Greg in Sep 2019 to Dailymail. Greg said he told her she needed to go to rehab and had also talked her into going through treatment. She was an addict even during her and Phil’s early relationship.

How Did Brynn Meet Her Husband Phil Hartman? 

Brynn met Phil in 1986 when she was working as a Catalina swimsuit model. It was a blind date.

They married a year later in 1987. After the marriage, Brynn and Phil welcomed two children, Birgen Anika Hartman and Sean Edward Hartman.

The Late actor Phil Hartman and his late wife, Minnesota born Brynn Hartman.
Thief River Falls-born native Brynn Hartman with her late husband Phil Hartman. Getty

The couple welcomed their first, Sean Edward in 1989 and their second, Birgen Hartman in 1992. After Hartman got a role in Saturday Night Live in 1986, he and Brynn moved to a tiny apartment in Manhattan.

There Brynn took acting lessons and looked after their young children. Despite all her other problems, the Simpsons alum’s wife apparently was a loving mother to the children, her brother said.

Small Soldiers actor Phil Hartman and his wife and actress Brynn Hartman with their two children.
The late actor Phil Hartman and his late wife Brynn Hartman with their children. From Instagram tags

Friends described Brynn as a wonderful mother who carried strong devotion to her children. Phil and Brynn’s homemaker said the latter was always hanging out with them, always driving them around. The Thief River Falls native was also not feeling entrapment from her motherhood.

The Possible Causes Why Brynn Hartman Killed Her Husband Phil  

The late couple, Phil and Brynn’s marriage started to become rocky as Phil’s fame rose. Phil’s friends said he told them the two frequently fought, and one confidant of Phil claimed the ex-SNL member said he often needed to restrain Brynn.

Brynn and Phil would also fight each other in the dressing room. Friends had been noticing worrying traits in the latter behavior as well.

Houseguest actor Phil Hartman and his wife Brynn Hartman.
Brynn Hartman with her husband Phil Hartman. Film Magic

Brynn allegedly would physically abuse her husband Phil. As a result, he would show up to work with scratches on his face and spend the night on his houseboat.

The late-model/actress’ friends said her frustration stemmed from Phil’s demanding work schedule. It got worse with his failure to spend more of his downtime with her and their children and his disinterest in Brynn’s career aspirations. Brynn also suspected her husband, Phil Hartman, was having an affair.

Friends on both sides of the couple claimed each partner eventually wanted out, and things had reportedly grown volatile at times and icy at other times by the late ‘90s. And Jeannie Petersen, a childhood friend of Brynn’s who stayed in touch with her, says Brynn wanted out of the marriage.

Others claimed it was Hartman who wanted out.

Brynn Had Become Jealous Of Phil’s Career

Some reported Brynn, once a model, was somewhat insecure about Hartman’s success. In 1994, Phil left SNL to turn his hand to film and join NewsRadio. Brynn, on the other hand, had still not properly launched her career and was becoming increasingly insecure.

Brynn’s brother, Greg Omdahl once disclosed how, at times, Brynn was jealous of her husband’s celebrity status. Also, she experienced more annoyance when her husband would show his withdrawn nature at home.

Frustration would prove a major cause in the downfall of Hartman’s marriage.

Brynn Hartman Had Low Self Esteem

Brynn always had low self-esteem even before marrying Phil. She worried about looking older, getting older, Phil Hartman’s friend Dawna Kaufmann said.

The month before they died, Brynn had just turned 40. And this low self-esteem also led her to undergo several cosmetic surgeries.

A plastic surgeon who operated on Phil’s baby mother claims she was very insecure and wanted to be the perfect wife of a Hollywood actor. Interestingly, Metza Giezing, the Hartmans’ former New York City nanny, reported some of the surgery was Phil’s idea.

Brynn Had Once Again Started Using Drugs  

Despite her history with illegal substances, Brynn had recovered from alcohol and cocaine addiction before her marriage with Phil.

She, however, relapsed after nearly a decade of sobriety within the first year of marriage. According to Mr. Hartman, he had made clear to Brynn that he would end the marriage if she started doing drugs again.

What Was The Reason Behind Brynn’s Relapse? 

Comedian Jon Lovitz in July 2007 accused fellow comedian Andy Dick of reintroducing Brynn to cocaine. Lovitz said Dick had given Brynn Hartman cocaine at a Christmas Party 1997 party in the Hartman’s home, which led to her relapse.

At that time, Lovitz claimed the mother of two had been sober for ten years. Dick, however, asserted he did not cause her to relapse. He said Brynn was already in relapse mode, which he didn’t even know she had a problem [with] at all in the first place.

Brynn Hartman Sent Threatening Letter To Phil’s Ex-Wife

Brynn apparently also feuded with one of her late husband’s wives. When Phil’s second wife, Lisa Strain, sent him and Brynn a card to congratulate them on the birth of their first child, Lisa said she instead got a letter back from Brynn ‘that was hair-curling, fury, rage and [a] death threat’.

The reply according to Lisa apparently read,

“Don’t ever f*****g get near me or my family or I will hurt you. I never want to hear from you…never, ever, ever come near us or you will really be sorry.”

Brynn allegedly wrote her back four pages of the most hideous vitriol one could imagine.

What Happened On The Day Of The Murder-Suicide Of Brynn And Phil?

On the day of the killing and suicide May 28, 1998, Brynn had gone out with a female friend, Christine Zander for drinks in the evening at the Italian bistro Buca di Beppo. Zander at the time was a supervising producer with the NBC sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun.

Christine later advocated Brynn was in a good frame of mind that evening they had drinks at Buca di Beppo. Brynn reportedly drank two Cosmopolitans (vodka, triple sec, and cranberry juice) over two hours and “didn’t talk about any problems,” said Zander.

Zander and the mother of Mr. Hartman’s children had also made plans to see each other the following weekend.

How The Murder Took Place?

Later that night of May 28, 1998, however, Brynn returned to her Encino home and had a heated argument with Hartman. After coming home, Brynn amped up herself to get Phil’s attention. After that, the Ontario-born actor tried to avoid his wife by simply going to sleep. This had normally worked in the beginning but not that night.

This time, Hartman’s process to avoid his wife’s tantrum didn’t work and shortly before 3 a.m., Brynn shot Hartman three times as he slept. She hit him with bullets twice in the head and once on his right side.

The actor lost his life to multiple gunshot wounds to the head.

The SNL actor Phil Hartman and his wife Brynn's house, where the killing-suicide took place.
The house where the murder-suicide took place.

The North actress used a .38-caliber handgun, one of several weapons Mr. Hartman kept in a safe in his home. Following the shooting, Brynn fled the scene. She then drove to the home of Ron Douglas, a longtime friend of hers and also an ex-boyfriend.

Mrs. Hartman confessed to Douglas what she had done, but he didn’t believe her until he saw a gun fall out of her purse. Brynn then made a second call to another friend and again admitted to the crime.

After that, she went back to her Encino home with Douglas. With the police, he later reported himself driving with her, in separate cars, back to her and Phil’s home.

Meanwhile, Ron had taken the gun from her and put it in his trunk and did not think that she had anymore. When following Brynn back to the home, Douglas had an opportunity to check the barrel of the gun and upon doing so, saw that two of the bullets were missing.

He’d later find out Brynn had used three bullets to kill her husband. When Douglas got to the house – where the couple’s children were – he found Phil in their bedroom lying on the bed.

The Holywood Walks Of Fame had been shot three times including once on the forehead. Brynn’s ex-boyfriend then left the room to call the police.

After calling the police, Douglas grabbed Sean from his bed and took him outside. Once she arrived home, Brynn, on the other hand, called her sister and even had a brief phone conversation with the police.

The police upon arrival removed the couple’s children from the home to safety. As they were questioning a terrified Birgen out of the house, officers heard a gunshot inside.

What Was The Death Scene Of Phil Hartman And Brynn Hartman Like?

When they went to the bedroom, they found the bloodied Hartman on the bed and Brynn, with a single gunshot to her head, next to him. She had taken her spot next to Phil and shot herself in the head using a different gun than the one Douglas had earlier confiscated.

The police taking the bodies of Phil Hartman and his wife Brynn Hartman.
The officials – escorting the bodies of Phil and his wife Brynn.

The one-time documentary actress put the gun to her mouth before pulling the trigger. Phil’s wife died of a single gunshot wound to the head.

What Happened To Phil And Brynn’s Children After Their Death? 

After the death of Brynn and her husband, their children ended up under the guardianship of Brynn’s sister Katherine and her husband Michael Wright in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The children initially stayed with Hartman’s brother John, a Los Angeles record-company executive.

The kids later went to Brynn’s married sister Katherine Kay Wright who then was living in Eau Claire, Wis. Brynn’s brother, Greg later said the kids grew up as loved children.

CB4 actor Phil and his wife Brynn's children, Sean and Birgen.
The late actor couple, Phil and Brynn’s children, Sean and Birgen.

Comic actor Phil Hartman and his wife, Brynn Hartman left their estate _ estimated at $1.23 million _ to their two orphaned children. The wills also specified cremation requests from the Small Soldiers actor.

Hartman asked that his ashes be scattered over Santa Catalina Island’s Emerald Bay. Brynn, however, didn’t specify what she wanted to be done with her ashes.

In their 50-page wills, the Hartmans directed that the first guardian who consents to take care of the children get to keep $50,000 from their estate. The will further – stated the Hartman children would each get a third of their inheritance when they reach age 25 or receive a bachelor’s degree from a four-year accredited university.

It additionally demanded they receive half the remaining balance when they turn 30 and the remainder when they turn 35. To protect them from the media and allow them to grow up in relative obscurity, they ended up having a different last names.

Brynn Hartman And Phil’s Children As An Adult

Today, Sean is 33 years old. And according to ABC News in Sep 2019, he was “pursuing his dreams of being an artist and musician.” He was then reportedly living in Oakland, California.

Birgen, on the other hand, who now is 30, graduated from the University of St. Thomas. Brynn and Hartman’s only daughter, Birgen also received degrees in Journalism and Communication at the Minnesota university.

She tied the knot with her husband, Brandon, in 2018 in Italy. She also runs her own business according to her uncle, Greg Omdahl.

Seinfield alum Phil Hartman's daughter Birgen with her husband.
The late actress Brynn’s daughter, Birgen with her husband. Instagram

Though both Hartman kids stay mostly out of the spotlight, Brynn and Hartman’s daughter did make an appearance at the SNL 40th Anniversary celebration in 2015. In 2017, the daughter also commemorated the anniversary of her parents’ deaths in an Instagram post.

For the present, everything seems to be going well for Birgen now. She, however, at one time, allegedly struggled with substance abuse issues like her late mother. Nonetheless, according to her Instagram, she got sober in February of 2012. Brynn’s daughter, Birgen updates to social media are sporadic, and she does very occasionally honor her late father as well.

Brynn Hartman’s Brother Blamed Pfizer For His Sister’s Action

In May 1999, shortly before the year anniversary of the tragedy, Brynn’s brother, Greg Omdahl sued Pfizer, the makers of the antidepressant Zoloft. He claimed the drug contributed side effects that caused his sister to do something so unimaginable.

Brynn's brother Greg Omdahl - talking about their deaths and how his sister and her husband in a ABC special.
The Minnesota native and the late Brynn Hartman. ABC

And according to Los Angeles County medical examiner, Craig Harvey, Brynn Hartman did have a blood-alcohol level of 0.12, as well as cocaine and Zoloft in her system that night.

Her brother, henceforth, sued Pfizer for wrongful death, claiming Zoloft was to blame for her killing Phil and then herself. Pfizer ultimately gave Brynn’s family $100,000 thereby settling the lawsuit.

Phil’s Brother Forgave Brynn And Also Asked Others To Do So

While some of Phil Hartman’s family initially opposed the move, they ultimately agreed Brynn Hartman’s family was not to blame for her actions on that fateful night.

At the private memorial service for the couple, Phil Hartman’s brother John urged loved ones to be kind towards Brynn as they processed their grief.

He told his fellow mourners the two were victims of the same accident. John added how there is no one to hate and no one to blame. He begged for everyone’s forgiveness.

Even in a 2013 interview with CBS Los Angeles, John when reflecting on his brother’s death said he had long decided to forgive rather than hate Brynn, admitting that “it took a lot of hard work” to heal emotionally from the incident.

John said, the instant he knew Brynn was on Zoloft & did not know what she was doing, he didn’t doubt it for a second, and forgave her at that moment.