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Murder, She Wrote Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

"Murder, She Wrote" is one of the most iconic American television crime dramas and still sticks out in most people's minds despite ending more than 25 years ago. It was originally produced by the CBS network and starred Angela Lansbury, Tom Bosley, William Windom, Ron Masak, Will Nye, and Louis Herthum, among many others. It received over a dozen Golden Globe nominations, as well as scores of Emmy nominations — most of those going to Lansbury.

It's been two and a half decades since the show ended. Thankfully, the actor who played the show's iconic lead Jessica Fletcher, Angela Lansbury, is still with us. But since most of the actors on the show were either middle-aged or older back when the series wrapped, we're sad to report that many of the actors who entertained so many for all those years have passed on. Even many of the show's most famous guest stars, like Jessica Walter and Sonny Bono, are no longer with us. But as far as the main cast goes, you may be surprised by some of the names on the list of "Murder, She Wrote" stars who are gone but not forgotten.

William Windom was the small town equivalent of a forensics expert

William Windom played Dr. Seth Hazlitt on the show. He was a regular recurring guest starting in Season 2 and lasting all the way to the end of the series. Dr. Hazlitt was Cabot Cove's most well-known physician and helped Jessica (Lansbury) with many, many murders over the years. The series also explores his tumultuous relationship with his brother Richard.

Windom was born in the early 1920s in New York City. In addition to his prominent role on "Murder, She Wrote," Windom appeared in many TV shows, including "Star Trek" and "Gunsmoke." He was also well-known for his work on the silver screen. Some of his more famous cinematic accomplishments include "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Escape From the Planet of the Apes," "Uncle Buck," and "True Crime." He passed away in August of 2012 due to congestive heart failure. He was 88 years old.

Tom Bosley was the sheriff who played second fiddle to Jessica Fletcher

Tom Bosley played Sheriff Amos Tupper for the first four seasons of "Murder, She Wrote." It was a running joke in the series that Jessica was responsible for solving most of the homicides which came across his desk. Starting at the beginning of Season 5, he was replaced with Sheriff Mort Metzger (played by Ron Masak). Many may also recognize him from his decade-long stint on "Happy Days" as Howard Cunningham, or playing the part of Arthur in the 2010 comedy "The Back-up Plan."

"The Back-up Plan" was actually one of the last high-profile roles he was in before his death in 2010. He was struggling with cancer at the time, but it was heart failure that got him in the end. At 83 years old, it's fair to say that he lived a full life as a Tony Award-winning actor, husband, brother, and father.

Ken Swofford played more than one character on Murder, She Wrote

One of the jack-of-all-trades actors who made a total of 11 appearances on the show was actor Ken Swofford. Most of those appearances were as Lieutenant Catalano, lackey to amateur sleuth Dennis Stanton (Keith Mitchell). Interestingly enough, he also played a few bit parts in earlier episodes of the series before the showrunners settled on letting him have a recurring role. Eagle-eyed fans may recognize him as playing characters with such amazing names as Leo Kowalski, Grover Barth, Sid Sharkey, and Sheriff Tugman. Some viewers may have been confused by the fact that he played so many different characters, but he certainly wasn't the only actor who had fun playing around in different roles on set.

Swofford's is one of the more recent deaths in the "Murder, She Wrote" cast. He passed away in 2018 at the age of 85. His grandson announced the event on Twitter in November of that year, praising his grandad for being a "jokester," "angry polar bear," and "a great father, husband & grandfather."

Julie Adams was the vivacious real estate agent

Julie Adams had a 10-episode stint on the series which spanned the late 80s to the early 90s. She played lascivious real estate maven Eve Simpson who, one could argue, was an early role model for women who would rather embrace their sexuality than pretend to be demure and pure for the sake of propriety. Although she played a lot of interesting roles later in her career, she's best known as the female lead Kay Lawrence in "Creature from the Black Lagoon" back in 1954.

Adams is another one of the more recent deaths among the "Murder, She Wrote" cast. She passed away in early 2019. Her death was covered by The New York Times, which reported that the classic Hollywood icon lived to the very respectable age of 92. Her obituary notes that she was survived by her sons Steven and Mitchell, whose father was famous actor Ray Danton.

Herb Edelman also played a few different roles before settling in

Herb Edelman, in a similar fashion to that of his fellow cast member Swofford, played more than one part over the course of the show. His first character, simply known as "George," appeared in a Sherlock Holmes-style episode in 1984. He came back two years later to play Lieutenant Varick in 1986, and also portrayed the character of Max Hellinger the following year. It wasn't until five years later in 1992 that he came back for good, taking on the role of NYPD Lieutenant Artie Gelber. He appeared on many television shows in this era, most notably "Golden Girls" where he portrayed Dorothy's (Bea Arthur) ex-husband Stan. 

Edelman passed several years ago in 1996, survived by his ex-wife Louise Sorel; his children Briana and Jacy; and his longtime girlfriend Christina Pickles. His death was the result of emphysema. He was only 62 years old.

Keith Joseph Michell was a jewel thief turned investigator

Although he appeared in fewer than a dozen episodes between 1987 and 1993, Keith Joseph Michell certainly had a memorable role. He played debonair Englishman Dennis Stanton, former jewel thief turned insurance investigator. Obviously, his character's motivations made sense because the best way to thwart criminals is to know exactly how they think (a theme that would later be explored extensively in the TNT classic "Leverage"). Aside from his role on "Murder, She Wrote," he had a knack for playing Henry VIII in the 70s.

Michell passed away a few years ago back in 2015. He was 88 years old if you ask British news outlet The Guardian, but The Hollywood Reporter claims he made it all the way to the ripe old age of 89. It seems as though he died of old age since no specific cause of death was listed. He left behind his wife Jeanette Sterke, son Paul, and daughter Helena who, like her father, was also Australian-born.

Bradford Lee Dillman was the actor who changed hats the most

If you thought Swafford and Edelman played too many different parts in the series, then you might have overlooked Bradford Lee Dillman changing hats in each of his episodes. Was it Dillman's constantly changing roles that inspired "American Horror Story" creator Ryan Murphy to recycle the same actors for different parts in his award-winning series? It's hard to say. But Dillman kept switching personalities with every appearance he made, including characters such as detective Lieutenant Simon Kershaw, Avery Stone, Eric Benderson, and Richard Elston.

Dillman is another relatively recent death among the "Murder, She Wrote" cast. Complications from pneumonia took his life on January 18, 2018 (The Hollywood Reporter). But Dillman didn't just have a talent for acting. The man was also a fan of writing, having published both an autobiography in 1997 and a nonfiction book about the New York Giants which was published in 1995.

Richard Paul was jolly Mayor Sam Booth

Richard Paul's appearances on "Murder, She Wrote" were sporadic — he appeared in eight episodes total — but he consistently portrayed Mayor Sam Booth whenever he did grace the show with his presence. His character referred to himself as the "do-nothing mayor," an unfortunate characteristic abundantly present in many of the governing officials we see in politics today. He also played real-life evangelical Reverend Jerry Falwell in "The People Vs Larry Flynt;" Mr. Strawbridge in the original run of "Full House;" and had a walk-on role as the local sheriff in "Married With Children."

Paul actually lived a very interesting life outside of his time in the movies and on TV. He was an animal rights advocate, a mental health advocate, and encouraged childhood immunization. He also volunteered his voice to record books on tape for the Braille Institute, thus making more reading materials available for those struggling with vision impairment. He was relatively young when he passed away from cancer in December of 1998. He was only 58 years old.