The sad story of Judith Barsi, the child actress killed by her father

by Staff writer

On June 6, 1978, a star was born.

Judith Eva Barsi began her television career at the early age of 5 when she was discovered at a skating rink.

Members of a crew who were at the skating rink shooting a commercial noticed Judith’s superior skating skills.

With that, she was hired for her first commercial for Donald Duck Orange Juice, and her career in show biz took off from there.

Judith Barsi voiced Ducky from the 80s children animated films “The Land Before Time”. Her painful death at just 10 years old was heartbreaking.

Judith’s parents were immigrants from Hungary who had met in California. From the day Judith was born, Maria knew her daughter would be a star.

Judith was a sweet girl with a charming smile. She loved to eat Mac-N-Cheese and enjoyed spending time with friends, especially a little boy named Kenny, who she had a crush on.

In her acting career, Judith went on to star in over 70 commercials and had many guest appearances on TV shows.

Judith appeared in a commercial for Campbell’s Tomato Soup before she was cast in the TV movie, Do You Remember Love?

Judith and her mother, Maria, would take turns reading from a storybook, their voices soft, sweet and animated.

Judith and co-star Andrea got along well, telling knock-knock jokes, giggling and passing notes under the door. Judith loved swimming and often played in her best friend’s sprinkler. She enjoyed playing the game Operation.

Those who knew Judith described her as smart, adorable and funny. Judith and her mother Maria were very close. Judith spoke Hungarian fluently, and when she and Maria were in public, they would often speak in Hungarian so no one would know what they were talking about.

The two were rarely apart from one another with Maria even teaching Judith how to knit.

The one downfall for Judith with all of the acting she was doing, was that she often missed school and told a friend, Lisa Williams, that she “missed being in school because she missed her friends a lot.”

Her favorite subjects in school were History and Art. Her not so favorite subjects, math and PE. Judith seemed to be a normal, happy little girl. Her favorite colors were pink and purple and her favorite flower was a sunflower.

Judith loved to play with her dolls and ride her bike with her friends.

By the time she was 7 years old, she was making $100,000 a year. Judith Barsi looked like she had it all, but, sadly, this was far from the truth.

Behind closed doors Judith and her mother, Maria Agnes Barsi, were subjected to constant abuse at the hands of Judith’s father, Jozsef Barsi.

As Judith gained more fame with the help of her devoted mother, Jozsef became increasingly abusive, jealous and paranoid.

Before Judith’s career took off, the family had been living on welfare and struggled financially.


The vast improvement Judith’s fame brought to their new lifestyle was not enough to stop Jozsef from abusing Judith and Maria.

Outside of the home Jozsef seemed to adore Judith, calling her “Little One”. However, as the abuse worsened, it began to spill out even in front of neighbors, who described Jozsef as often becoming inexplicably angry with the little girl.

One neighbor recalls an afternoon when Maria had arrived home with a kite for Judith. As Judith was looking at it, Jozsef snatched it from her. “You’re going to break it!” Jozsef snarled.

Judith cried as her father roughly handled her new toy. Jozsef turned to Maria and the neighbor and sneered, “Look at her! She’s just a spoiled brat and doesn’t want to share her new toy!”, and then proceeded to break the kite into tiny pieces.


A friend of Jozsef’s, Peter Kivlen, recalls Jozsef saying that he would kill Maria. When Kivlen asked “If you kill her, what will happen to your Little One?”, to which Jozsef responded, “I gotta kill her too.”

Judith was terrified of her father, and justly so. When she was cast to be in the movie Jaws IV: The Revenge, her and Maria had to travel to the Bahamas to film the movie on location.

Before they left, Jozsef gave his little girl some words of advice. With a knife held to her neck, he warned Judith, “If you decide not to come back, I will find you and I will cut your throat.”


When Judith and Maria stopped in New York after filming to visit friends, Judith spoke on the phone with Jozsef and he shouted at her: “Remember what I told you before you left!”

Terrified, Judith burst into tears and ran into a bedroom.

When Maria and Judith returned home, the cycle of abuse continued.

Jozsef would rage against his daughter and then apologize profusely buying her gifts to “make up” for his actions.

Once, while the family was hosting a party, Jozsef became jealous of all the attention Judith was receiving. When he was alone with Judith in the kitchen, he pulled her hair in a rage while calling her a ‘damn brat’.

He then went out and bought her a pink television set as an attempt at an apology. Jozsef’s reign of terror continued as he constantly threatened to kill himself, Maria and Judith.

He was a raging alcoholic which led to three arrests for DUI [drunk driving].

In December of 1986, Maria finally stepped forward and reported the abuse to police.

Now here is the thing that is really very annoying, after the abuse was originally reported, police stated they found no signs of physical abuse and Maria decided not to press charges against Jozsef.

If only something had been done when Maria had the courage to step forward, there would not be a need writing this story today.

Jozsef allegedly cut back on the drinking after the report was made, but continued with the constant abuse and threats.

He would threaten to cut Judith and Maria’s throats and burn down the house. At one point, he hid a telegram for Maria telling her that a family member in Hungary passed away in an attempt to keep her and Judith in America.


The more severe the abuse became, the more warning signs Judith was showing. She had confessed to a friend that her father threw pots and pans at her causing a nosebleed. She also told a couple who were friends with the family, “I’m afraid to go home. My daddy is miserable. My daddy is drunk every day and I know he wants to kill my mother.”

Judith’s friends recall the fear they also had of Joszef. They say that sometimes when they would knock on the door to see if Judith could come outside to play, he would say to them, “Oh that little ass? She’s not here.”

Judith began to put on weight and her behaviour became very disturbing. This once shining little girl became reclusive and began to self harm. She began plucking out all of her eyelashes and even pulled out all of her cat’s whiskers.

After Judith broke down in front of her agent during a singing audition for the musical drama All Dogs Go To Heaven, Maria brought her to a child psychologist.

The psychologist quickly identified severe physical and emotional abuse as well as stating that Judith was very verbal about the ongoing abuse, and reported her findings to CPS [Child Protection Services].


This was another opportunity to get Judith help that was thrown away. The investigation was dropped when Maria assured the case worker that she was planning on divorcing Jozsef and moving her and Judith into an apartment she had recently rented as a daytime retreat from the abuse at home. However, Maria never followed through with her plan to leave.

On July 25, 1988, Jozsef walked into Judith’s room and shot her in the head as she slept. He then shot Maria as she stood in the hallway.

After killing his wife and daughter, Jozsef spent the next couple of days wandering around the house with the bodies of those he’d murdered left where he had killed them.

He spoke with Judith’s agent during this time and stated that he intended to move out for good, and he just wanted time “to say goodbye to my little girl”.

He also told the agent that a car had taken his wife and daughter away. After the conversation, Jozsef doused Judith and Maria’s bodies with gasoline and attempted to set them on fire. He then went into the garage and shot himself in the head with the same pistol he used to murder his daughter and wife.


Neighbor Eunice Daly states she was shocked by an explosive noise and saw smoke rising from Barsi’s home. She recalls thinking “He’s done it. He’s killed them and set a fire in the house”.

By the time fire fighters and first responders arrived, the interior of the home had been destroyed.

And this was the sad end of a little girl whose talent could have become the most celebrated throughout all of America.


Still, Judith’s career continued to flourish even after her death. The films The Land Before Time and All Dogs Go To Heaven which Judith had starred in were released after her murder.

Don Bluth, the director of The Land Before Time, was simply enchanted with Judith and the talent she exuded.

He has said that he was intending to use her in his future films, but sadly he never got that chance. Despite only a handful of movie appearances, Judith left her mark.

Any child who grew up watching The Land Before Time can hear that “Yep! Yep! Yep!” that makes you smile instantly.

Judith’s voice is iconic, and the sweet, soft way she narrated the character Anne-Marie in All Dogs Go To Heaven changed the way every child spoke the name Charley.

On August 9, 1988, Judith and Maria Barsi were laid to rest in white caskets, in unmarked graves at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles.

The graves went without headstones for 16 years before donations made by the public could purchase the headstones which were placed where mother and daughter lay beside each other.

At the time of her death at just 10 years old, Judith had lived and accomplished more than most people will in their entire 80-year lives.

She brought smiles to many who watched her blossom and grow on their TV sets at home. She captured America’s heart, and she will forever remain in our hearts as that beautiful little girl whose talent seemed endless.


Credit: LightingTheirWayHome.Com

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One Comment on “The sad story of Judith Barsi, the child actress killed by her father”

  1. I was looking for something else and came across this remarkable yet very sad story. In conclusion so much more should have been done to protect this precious mother and daughter from this man. He could have gained much if he’d not been jealous of HIS daughter, his OWN flesh and blood! How many untold happens are still taking place in 2022 like this?
    I remember her beautiful little face in the Jaws movie. And had no idea of the horror she and her mother were facing! Thank you for this post – though years old – I’m glad I found it and will treasure her memory ❤ 🙏🏽

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