Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Who Murdered Bonny Lee Bakley?

Bonny the Celebriphiliac

A more recent photo of Bonny Lee Bakley
A more recent photo of
Bonny Lee Bakley

Bonny may have been afflicted with a relatively newly recognized condition known as celebriphilia for most of her teenage and adult life. The condition is actually older than the term that describes it, and was brought to light in the June 22, 2001 edition of Entertainment Weekly in an article about Bonny's case entitled, "Dangerous Game," by Benjamin Svetkey and Allison Hope Weiner. It is intended to describe a distinct condition as opposed to those conditions affecting groupies and star stalkers. An afflicted celebriphiliac is indeed quite different.

A celebriphiliac, as it applies to Bonny Lee Bakley, appears to entail more of an attraction to famous men, or women, as the case may be, as opposed to merely being an overzealous fan looking for fast and unattached sex with a celebrity to fulfill a crush they've had on a particular star or stars. Bonny Bakley had a compulsive attraction to men of celebrity and to fame itself — it's what she lived for and it became a goal that she was compelled to attain.

"People who follow stars often have the obsessive-compulsive trait," said Donald Fleming, a Los Angeles psychotherapist. "They can fool almost anybody. They become so acute at reading how to meet another person's needs that they can pick up on their vulnerabilities and play them like a violin.

"Often these people have serious identity problems," Fleming continued. "They lack a centered sense of self. They're usually people that have not developed out of their grandiose childhood wishes and fantasies to be important. The only way they can feel important or special or unique is through famous people being part of their life."

"The operative word here is resourcefulness," said Dr. Michael Zona, who creates profiles of such people for Omega Threat Management Group, a Los Angeles based security agency that provides services to celebrities. "These folks are extremely resourceful and clever."

Jerry Lee Lewis
Jerry Lee Lewis

By 1990 Bonny found herself in Memphis, Tennessee, where she was determined to meet her idol, old-timer rock 'n' roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis.

"She was a groupie and she really wanted to meet my brother," said Lewis's sister, Linda Gail Lewis. "And she did."

Linda Gail Lewis said that she and Bakley somehow met, but she could not recall how or where. Lewis said that she and Bonny became close friends until Bonny began telling everyone that Jerry Lee Lewis had gotten her pregnant.

"I was playing music at night, and sometimes Bonny would come over and her kids would swim in the pool with mine," said Linda Gail. She said that she did not understand what her brother could have seen in Bonny because by the time Bonny met him she had become considerably overweight and had two children that she was trying to raise. "I don't know if the DNA tests proved the little girl was his baby. But I think there was some settlement."

Bonny's daughter, Jeri Lee Lewis, father undetermined, was born on July 28, 1993, in Desoto County, Mississippi.

"Bonny was always dating somebody, even celebrities like Dean Martin," said Linda Gail. "She called me up one night (in early or mid-1995) really excited and said she was out with Dean Martin. She put him on the phone, and the guy on the other end sounded like Dean... the last time I saw Bonny was three years ago (1998) in Memphis, when she came to one of my gigs. She was spending every weekend in a penal farm and seeing Christian Brando. She didn't tell me how she hooked up with him, but I was amazed by it."

Bonny, it turned out, had been convicted on a number of charges that ranged from credit-card fraud to Social Security scams, and had served some of her sentences doing weekends on a penal farm.

Despite the other celebrities she had dated, Bonny seemed obsessed with Jerry Lee Lewis. Lewis's other sister, Frankie Jean Lewis, told investigators that Bonny's intentions toward 'The Killer' were always out in the open.

"She had sworn to marry him," said Frankie Jean, who runs the Jerry Lee Lewis family museum in Ferriday, Louisiana. "She told everyone that she would (marry him)... Jerry would just smile."

On May 8, 2001, four days after Bonny's murder and amid all of the publicity the case was receiving that included details of Jerry Lee Lewis' and Bonny's purported relationship, the Lewis family issued a lengthy statement in the form of a press release denying the allegations surrounding the issue of paternity of Bonny's daughter, Jeri Lee, and the alleged relationship between Bonny and 'The Killer.'

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