Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Life and Death of Marvin Gaye

The Final Fight

In his paranoia, Marvin, Jr. had begun to stockpile guns when he returned home from the Sexual Healing Tour. He kept a cheap machine gun in his bedroom at one point until his mother insisted that he get rid of it.

For reasons not entirely clear, Marvin gave his father a handgun, an unregistered .38-caliber Smith & Wesson, at Christmas time in 1983.

On the night of March 31, 1984, Marvin, Sr. was angered because he was unable to find a document concerning an insurance policy. He stormed around the house and yelled at Alberta, whom he blamed for losing the document.

He was still angry when he awoke the next morning, Sunday, April 1, the day before Marvin, Jr.'s 45th birthday.

Marvin Gay, Sr. escorted by police
Marvin Gay, Sr. escorted by police

At about 11 a.m., Marvin, Sr. hollered up the stairs at his wife, who was in Marvin, Jr.'s bedroom. The son went to the top of the stairs and hollered back that he should speak to Alberta's face if he had something to say.

The father hurried up the steps and entered his son's room. Marvin, Jr. leaped up off the bed and pushed his 70-year-old father out into the hallway, knocking him down and kicking him.

Alberta interceded and the men separated. Marvin, Jr. returned to his bed.

The father got up and went down the hall to his own bedroom. After a few moments, he returned to Marvin, Jr.'s threshold. He raised a hand toward his son, and Alberta could see he was holding the .38 pistol Marvin, Jr. had given him.

He pulled the trigger, and shot his son in the chest, tearing through his heart. As Marvin, Jr. slumped off the bed to the floor, his father strode forward and fired again. The second shot was unnecessary.

Marvin's brother, Frankie, ran to the sound of shots. His wife, Irene, called 911. Paramedics arrived to find Marvin Sr. sitting on the front porch. They demanded to see the gun before they would enter the house. Irene found it under Marvin, Sr.'s pillow and threw it on the lawn.

Gaye was rushed to California Hospital. Resuscitation efforts were in vain. He was declared dead at 1:01 p.m.

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