Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Mysterious Death of Superman

What Really Happened?

New York Post headlines
New York Post headlines

Leonore and three other friends were guests in Reeves' home on the night of his death. In the movie, they had been sitting quietly on the couch, drinking and listening to Reeves playing his guitar and singing a tune in Spanish. After Leonore complained that song was boring her, Reeves reportedly told them he was tired and he retired to his bedroom. That was the last time he was seen alive.

By the time the police were notified, 45 minutes had passed since Leonore and her guests claimed they heard the shot around 1:59 a.m. When the police arrived, Reeves was lying naked on his bed, dead of a single gunshot wound to the right temple. The coroner who did the official inquest was quick to rule it a suicide, but questions immediately arose. Evidence collected at the scene and observations of the surroundings suggested other probable causes of death.

Adrien Brody plays the detective in the movie Hollywoodland
Adrien Brody plays the detective in the
movie 'Hollywoodland'

Reeves' mother, Helen Bessolo, arrived in Los Angeles and quickly commissioned her own investigation. Although an elaborate funeral was held for Reeves and was well-attended by Hollywood's finest, his body would not be cremated for another three years while the investigation was ongoing. Helen hired a detective from the Nick Harris Detective Agency, a young operative named Milo Speriglio, to conduct an investigation, thereby postponing the cremation of the body for three years. However, Reeves' mother died before any substantial new evidence could be uncovered.

In the movie, Speriglio's name is changed to the much-easier-to-pronounce Lou Simo, who is convincingly played by Adrien Brody. Simo smells a rat, just as Speriglio did, and his investigation uncovers some glaring inconsistencies in what the official report stated: inconsistencies that suggested different conclusions. Simo is dogged in his pursuit of the real facts in the case, and what he uncovers both shocks him and nearly gets him killed.

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