Brynn Hartmann was the third wife and murderer of the Canadian-American comedian and actor Phil Hartmann. Phil Hartmann’s story was being told again in an episode of ABC’s 20/20 and it aired Friday, May 1, 2020, at 9 p.m. EST.
Brynn Hartmann Biography
Brynn Hartmann was born Vicki Omdahl on 11 April 1958 in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, United States. She was born to Donny, a former engineer, and Connie, who ran a retail shop. Brynn married Doug Torfin, a telephone operator, and later divorced. She began modeling in Minneapolis, but later moved to California and added acting lessons to her repertoire. According to Heavy.com, a friend told PEOPLE “She was always looking to find herself. When I met her, she was Vicki Jo, then Brindon, and then Brynn. I’d laugh and say, ‘Who are you this week?”
Brynn Hartmann Marriage to Phil Hartman
Brynn Hartmann was a Catalina swimsuit model when she met Hartmann. She suffered from severe insecurities and became intimidated by her husband’s successes. According to the people magazine, Phil met Brynn in 1986 on a blind date and they married in 1987. The couple had two children together, Sean and Birgen. At the time Sean was only 9 years old and Birgen was only 6 years. Sean was born in 1989 and Birgen their daughter was born in 1992. After the death of their parents, they were raised by their mother’s sister, Katharine, and her husband, Mike Wright, in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. According to the ABC special The Last Days of Phil Hartmann, they were raised under a different last name to try to shield them from the media.
While initially, Phil’s family balked at the idea of Brynn’s family raising his kids, but that was what Brynn and Phil had put in their wills. Phil’s brother John Hartmann, a Los Angeles record company executive told CBS he had to make his family see that it was not Brynn’s family’s fault.
“I started with my mother and said, ‘Ma, we have to do the right thing here. These people did not kill Phil. And they’re good people.’ I was trying to keep the two families as one.” Hartmann’s daughter celebrates their father on fathers day.
Despite the tragedy that wrecked their childhood, Hartman’s children, Birgen Hartman and Sean Hartman are carrying on with their lives and achieving personal success. Sean currently 31 years old, told ABC News, “pursuing his dreams of being an artist and musician.” Birgen, 27 years old, was married last year in Italy to a man named Brandon and she has started her own business.
While they stay out of the spotlight, Birgen made an appearance for the 40th Anniversary of Saturday Night Live in 2015.
Phil Hartman was born Philip Edward Hartmann in Brantford, Ontario, 60 miles from Niagara Falls. He dropped the second “n” in his surname later in life. He was the fourth of eight children born to Rupert Hartmann and Doris Hartmann. His dad was a building-supplies salesman, and his mother was a stay-at-home mom.
In a CBS interview, he said, “I’m from a large family; I’m a middle child, I suppose I didn’t get what I wanted out of my family life, so I started seeking love and attention elsewhere.” According to the PEOPLE, his father died at 83 just weeks before his son. The family later moved to the United States when he was 10, settling briefly in Connecticut. They moved again a few years later to the West Coast, in West Los Angeles. Most of his classmates knew him as the class clown in high school. He started doing impressions in class to make his friends laugh. He told CBS, “Even at Westchester High in West, L.A., I was class clown, because I could do John Wayne, Jack Benny, Jack Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and entertain my friends on the senior lawn.”
Phil Hartman’s marriages
Before meeting Brynn, Phil was a divorcee. He had divorced twice in only a few years. He first married Gretchen Lewis in 1970. The marriage was brief. In a post for an alumni website, Lewis wrote about their marriage.
After graduating in 1967 I stayed in Miami for one year and attended Miami-Dade. I was on the ‘Men’s Track and Field Team’ as they didn’t have a women’s team. In 1968, I moved back to California where most of my family was and attended Northridge C.C. where I played Ladies Varsity Basketball until track season. We went to the championships that year!
I left school after a year to work in the fashion business and at 18 yrs. old, I married Phil Hartman of Saturday Night Live. At the time, he was a struggling graphic designer, designing album covers for Poco, Neil Young, and America. We lived in Malibu, were married for five years and living quite the ‘Rock ‘n Roll’ life. His older brother was a William Morris agent and had some big groups. It was a crazy life as was California in the 60’s. Chuck Coleman actually came out to visit me once and no one was crazier than Chuck.
My mother, who always lived in Miami, became ill, and I came back to Florida some years later, after having divorced Phil. He was the greatest guy, I was just not ready for that life.
She is currently married to a judge and retired. Phil later married Lisa Strain, a real estate agent, in 1982 with the marriage lasting only 3 years. In an interview with the PEOPLE, Lisa called her ex-husband reclusive and passive and said he accused her of getting in the way of his work. She said, “He would disappear emotionally, Phil’s body would be there, but he’d be in his own world. That passivity made you crazy. And when I’d protest, he’d say, ‘you’re getting in the way of my career, and this is who I am and what it’s going to be like.”
Phil would face similar issues in his marriage with Brynn Hartmann, but rather than end in divorce, the marriage ended in death.
Phil Hartman Death
— Inside Edition (@InsideEdition) September 19, 2019
With their two children in the house, on May 28, 1998, Hartman’s wife, Brynn, shot and killed him while he was sleeping in their home. When police arrived on the scene of the murder, they found the couple’s then-9-year old son, Sean, running out the front door of the home. As the police also helped their 6-year-old daughter, Birgen, get to a safe place, a shot was heard from inside. The police reported that there were no signs of a struggle when they examined the murder scene. Hartman was wearing boxer shorts and a t-shirt, while lying on his side, in a bed full of his blood. His wife was found lying back on her back, in a two-piece pajama set. After killing her husband, Brynn had gone to the house of an ex-lover later named as Ron Douglas where she confessed to shooting Hartman dead. Douglas accompanied Brynn to the Hartman family home, which the comedian had previously dubbed, “The Ponderosa.” When Douglas saw Hartman’s dead body, he fled the bedroom and called 911. Brynn then locked herself in the room and killed herself. An autopsy report indicated she had consumed cocaine, alcohol, and the antidepressant Zoloft that evening.
Brynn Hartmann Anger Issues and Drug Problems
According to her brother Greg Omdahl, he said, “she had a problem with cocaine. She did too much cocaine.” In the lead-up to the incident, Brynn was taking Zoloft, a powerful anti-depressant. Greg told ABC that his sister suffered from anxiety. Omdahl, later on, went to file a lawsulf against Pfizer, the manufacturer, as well as the doctor who prescribed the drug to Brynn Hartman. Omdahl maintained that neither the manufacturer nor the doctor had made his sister aware of the possible suicidal side-effects of the drug.
Just found this from 1996. The only picture I have of Phil Hartman on the set of News Radio. http://t.co/XNBdJfF6mn
— Joe Rogan (@joerogan) February 9, 2014
In addition to drugs, Hartman’s “NewsRadio” co-star, Joe Rogan, said in 2014 interview, “she was a failed actress who deeply resented Phil’s success and as he became more and more successful, their relationship became more and more contentious.”
The grisly murder happened in the bedroom of their $1.4 million Encino home.