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6 of the Biggest Unsolved Celebrity Deaths, From Biggie to the Black Dahlia

On the 15th anniversary of the Notorious BIG's death, these cold cases still plague Los Angeles cops.

This past weekend marked the 15th anniversary of the murder of one of hip-hop’s most enduring icons, Notorious B.I.G., and it also brought a shocker of an news byte: Complex magazine, talking to retired LAPD detective Greg Kading, revealed that Biggie’s killer is known, but the case will never be shut because the alleged assailant is deceased: 

According to the police detective who spent three years investigating the murder of Biggie Smalls, the man pictured above—Wardell Fouse a.k.a Darnell Bolton a.k.a. “Poochie”—was the triggerman who killed Biggie fifteen years ago today. His fee for murdering the greatest rapper of all time? $13,000. [...]

Kading is neither a journalist nor a conspiracy theorist. A retired L.A.P.D. detective, he was in charge of the special task force that investigated Christopher Wallace’s murder between 2006 and 2009. After Biggie’s mother Voletta Wallace filed suit against the City of Los Angeles and the L.A.P.D.—seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages—the department was highly motivated to solve the case. That’s when Kading got the assignment.

Kading was disgusted after he saw his case shelved despite obtaining two sworn confessions from those involved in the murder, and eventually quit the force. He’s about to publish his findings (and copies of his evidence) in the book Murder Rap: The Untold Story of the Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur Murder Investigations—perhaps clearing up some of the speculation on an investigation that for a decade and a half was thought of as an LAPD conspiracy to cover up the facts.

“I could not believe that we had taken the case to near conclusion and then I got removed,” Kading told Complex. “They just shelved the whole case after the Wallace camp retracted their lawsuits.” Kading says that Poochie was hired by Suge Knight and his girlfriend to murder Biggie, in retaliation for the death of Tupac Shakur. Poochie was shot in the back and killed in 2003 in Compton.

The Notorious B.I.G. murder is hardly the first high-profile investigation to be sitting in the cold-case files of the LAPD, and likely won’t be the last. In the case of the following celebrities whose deaths are as yet unsolved despite public demand, perhaps the most frightening question: if rich and famous Americans can’t get justice, then where does that leave the rest of us?

1. Tupac Shakur

The murder of Tupac Shakur is inextricably linked with that of the Notorious B.I.G., because the two rappers were embroiled in an East Coast-West Coast rivalry at the time which encompassed greed, money, power and street affiliation at the height of the gangland 1990s. However, Kading dispels the idea that the war between the two was as heightened as previously thought. He tells Complex, “Biggie was trying to suppress this whole conflict. Biggie wanted nothing to do with it. Biggie felt horrible that Tupac had gotten robbed and that Tupac believed that he had been behind it. In everything that we saw and read in all the interviews, Biggie was an innocent bystander in this whole thing.”

Tupac was murdered on September 7, 1996, six months before Big, and many believe it was at the hands of Orlando Anderson, a Southside Crip, over a gang war between his and Suge Knight’s affiliates, who were Bloods. Anderson was killed in 1998 in Compton. The deaths of Biggie and Tupac are not just about the loss of two of hip-hop’s greatest rappers, but about the tragic prevalence of gang violence in Southern California, whose rise dovetailed with racial segregation in the late 1960s and worsened with economic downturns throughout the 1980s and ‘90s, leading to a vast drug trade and horrific violence. (Recommended: the memoir of Crips founder Stanley “Tookie” Williams, Blue Rage, Black Redemption, which details his path from protector to killer to inmate to Nobel Peace Prize winner, before he was executed at San Quentin in 2005.)