The following is the first chapter from the book “True Crime Storytime Volume 7: 12 Disturbing True Crime Stories to Keep You Up All Night”

Chapter One

Dorothy Stratten

Dorothy Stratten was a beautiful young girl who had her sights set on Hollywood. Unfortunately, the bright lights of Hollywood blinded her to the dangers lurking nearby. It only took Dorothy Stratten a few years to go from Dairy Queen waitress to Playboy Playmate, but her rise to fame was quickly snuffed out. Paul Snider discovered Stratten when she was a diamond in the rough. When others realized what a precious gem she was, Snider was determined to keep his prize to himself at all costs.

A Small-Town Girl

Dorothy, born Dorothy Ruth Hoogstraten, was born February 28, 1960, in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her parents, Simon and Nelly, lived in a poor area of the city; and when her father left her mother to raise the children, things looked bleak. However, Stratten was optimistic, hardworking, and, seemingly unbeknownst to her, quite charming. These character traits would serve her well over her lifetime, but their first test would be earning the young teenager a job. In no time, Stratten was behind the counter of her local Dairy Queen, picking up shifts after school to help her mother pay the bills.

In 1977, Stratten was a shy, quiet, and unassuming seventeen-year-old keeping to herself, both at work and at school. It was just another ordinary day dishing up soft-serve when Paul Snider walked into the Vancouver establishment. Twenty-six-year-old Snider was immediately smitten with the blonde-haired Stratten. Those she knew would later say that she was undeniably beautiful, yet she never owned or flaunted her looks. Many would go on to describe her as a little naïve, not only to her physical appearance but also the harsh reality of life in general. 

Snider, however, was far from innocent. Orphaned from a young age, he, like Stratten, turned to work early on. In the seventh grade, he dropped out of school to earn a living. Snider was an auto show promoter but mostly operated as a self-proclaimed pimp. His lifestyle was a testament to his success, or the success he soon hoped to have. Snider routinely drove a flashy car, wore mink fur coats, and his prized diamond-encrusted Star of David necklace that dangled from his neck. It wouldn’t be fair to say that it was love at first sight because Snider positively appraised Stratten when he entered the shop. Whether he saw a gorgeous (but young) teenage girl or dollar signs is anyone’s guess. Those that knew Stratten said he had a sort of Napoleon complex, where he always wanted more. More money, muscles, fame, women, and power.

Within no time, Snider and Stratten were seen everywhere together. At almost ten years her senior, one might have referred to their relationship as grooming. Snider regularly bought Stratten gifts, including flowers, jewelry, and even a beautiful white gown for her senior prom—which he escorted her to. It would be this gown that Snider would convince her to wear for her first set of pictures.

Stratten wasn’t fully aware of her stunning good looks until Snider began to compliment her regularly. With his close attention, Stratten’s peers noticed how she went from wallflower to drop-dead gorgeous. She also began to gain confidence, slowly but surely. Snider saw her gradually opening up and pounced. He convinced her to try modeling, starting with professional photos taken in her prom dress. With one set of shots beneath her belt, Snider kept pressuring her to do more. He had his sights set on the Playboy casting call for playmates, The Great Playmate Hunt, celebrating Playboy’s twenty-fifth anniversary. Only to get there, Stratten would need to pose nude. With much coaxing, Snider convinced Stratten that posing sans clothes wasn’t that big of a deal. He even got her mother to sign off on the photos as Stratten, eighteen at the time, was below the legal adult age of nineteen in British Columbia. Snider secured famed photographer Ken Honey for the job, and the pictures were sent to Los Angeles.

Hugh Hefner’s team was instantly on board, asking that Stratten get on a plane immediately to fly to California. Later, they would go on to pay Honey a thousand dollars finders-fee for his photographing of Stratten. The young Canadian teen flew to the States to audition for Marilyn Gabrowski, who termed her a “babe in the woods,” a more pleasant way of saying the doe-eyed beauty was inexperienced and a bit naïve about her good looks. However, her attractiveness wasn’t quite enough to get her the top spot. Stratten was runner-up to Candis “Candy” Loving. Gabrowski wanted to hone Stratten’s skills and lessen her shyness, so she made her a playmate (or bunny) and, later, Miss August of 1979. 

Stratten Skyrockets to Fame

Getting a calendar spread was a huge accomplishment for a new playmate. But Stratten was still not yet twenty-one, preventing her from doing many of the things other bunnies in the mansion could do. Hefner, equally as impressed with her beauty and work ethic as Snider was, wasn’t willing to give up on Stratten despite her age. She lived in the mansion and worked in the LA Playboy Club, taking up post by the door as a greeter rather than serving drinks to club guests like most other playmates. It was around this time that the team convinced Stratten to drop “Hoog” from Hoogstratten, making her Dorothy Stratten. 

Miles away from British Columbia, one would think that Stratten was finally free from Snider. However, that was not the case. Snider was always at Stratten’s side, even at the mansion. When he wasn’t, he was regularly calling in to receive updates, even on set. The pair continued to have a relationship, much to everyone’s chagrin. Ever the social climber, Stratten’s fellow playmates remarked how Snider routinely tried to latch onto Hefner, but the mogul would have none of it, telling him in not so many words to stay away. On one occasion, Snider was banned from the mansion after he was found making out with another playmate who was not Stratten.

Despite Snider’s antics, Stratten stayed with him. It’s unclear whether she was in love or felt loyal to him for finding her and pushing her into a successful modeling career. Either way, Stratten was so committed to him that the pair married on June 1, 1979. Allegedly, Stratten went to consult Hefner prior to their marriage, and the mogul gently tried to dissuade her but felt that it ultimately wasn’t his business as he wasn’t Stratten’s father. Stratten’s fellow playmates strongly disliked Snider and weren’t approving.

It seemed as if Snider would do whatever it took to ride on Stratten’s coattails to fame and money, a move that paid off. After the marriage, Stratten continued to find success within Playboy. She was in two of Hefner’s films—The Playboy Roller Disco and The Playboy Pajama Party. While Stratten was initially featured in the productions due to her good looks and bunny status, it quickly became clear that she was a natural actress.

Those on set noted how talented she was when on camera but also praised her for her relaxed attitude and willingness to learn off-screen. Snider wasn’t the only one who enjoyed Stratten’s newfound fame. Hefner was trying to make a name for himself beyond the Playboy club, where famous celebrities came to party; he wanted to break into the celebrity world and gain the respect of his club’s members. Stratten’s potential, a Playboy bunny turned silver screen star, could be his ticket into Hollywood.

Stratten continued to pick up small roles in television shows and films, increasing her confidence and notoriety. As her fame grew, it began to eclipse Snider’s, and he felt that Stratten no longer had to rely on him for pep talks or assuredness that she was good enough. When she won Playmate of the Year in 1980, it was a true blow to Snider’s ego. Yet, he did maintain that he was immensely proud of his wife, despite the fact that he was desperate to spend all of her winnings from the Playmate of the Year award, including a couple of cars and exorbitant gifts like a bronze bathtub. Snider argued that as they were married, half of Stratten’s wealth belonged to him, and he continued to pester her about it night and day.

Stratten’s coworkers and friends took note of how Snider was affecting Stratten’s emotional and mental health. On occasion, he would show up to set, and Stratten would return crying after a conversation with him. Those that knew her suspected that she was beginning to grow tired of Snider’s antics. Patti Laurman and Stephen Cushner, who shared an apartment with Snider and Stratten, recalled how Snider may have sensed his time with Stratten was running out. Snider began focusing his efforts and attention on teenaged Laurman. He believed that he could replicate Stratten’s success on a new, younger woman. In addition, he began working in a club that sought to mirror the Playboy Bunny club but with male models and strippers in lieu of females.

However, while Stratten was climbing the social and professional ladder, Snider barely made it past the bottom few rungs. Eventually, he was cut out of the club entirely and began feeling less and less in control of his wife. Stratten was now gaining widespread fame. Touted as the “next Marilyn Monroe,” she had managers, agents, accountants, and an entire team of people. Her reliance on Snider was minimal, and she intended to keep it that way.


She caught the eye of Peter Bogdanovich, a friend of Hugh Hefner’s and well-known film director and producer, when she appeared in The Playboy Roller Disco. Bogdanovich believed that Stratten could act in his up-and-coming film featuring Audrey Hepburn and John Ritter. After she read for Bogdanovich in his apartment, the part was hers. Snider was less than enthused.

Not only was Bogdanovich a Hollywood bigshot, but he had a reputation with the ladies. Most recently, he had left his wife for it-girl Cybill Shepherd, who appeared in his latest film. Snider questioned if all the time Stratten and Bogdanovich spent on set together while filming in New York would foster the same turn of events. Stratten refused to let Snider come to the set.

Soon, Stratten was working in New York City, living in the Wyndham Hotel while filming. She captivated cast mates and the crew with her beauty and personality; and positively entranced Bogdanovich. At some point during the course of the production of the film, rumors of an affair between Stratten and Bogdanovich began circulating. It wasn’t long before Stratten took up residence in Bogdanovich’s suite and checked out of her room in the Wyndham.

Twenty-year-old Dorothy Stratten was well on her way to a successful career—without Paul Snider.

“The Killing of the Unicorn”

Snider began calling incessantly and investigating Stratten’s whereabouts, while she largely tried to avoid him at all costs. From their apartment in Los Angeles, Snider picked up on subtle cues that their relationship was ending. Such as the briefness of their calls, the curtness in Stratten’s voice, and her failure to sign off with their customary “I love you.” When he confronted her about it, Stratten told him he needed to “let the bird fly.” Signaling that while he might have had a hand in making her who she was, it was now time to set her free.

Stratten planned to return to LA during breaks in filming and was hoping to attend her mother’s upcoming wedding in Vancouver while on hiatus. Stratten’s likely run-in with Snider worried her friends on set. One even suggested a bodyguard to help keep the possessive Snider safely at bay, but Stratten waved off their concern. Snider was still her husband and had never been aggressive with her before. She felt comfortable meeting him for a conversation. The talk turned into an argument, ending with Snider agreeing to back off Stratten a little bit. When she returned to New York City, Stratten began cutting ties, separating her finances and life from Snider. A letter delivered to Snider in Los Angeles informed him that he was now no longer entitled to his wife or any of her assets. Without Stratten, not only was Snider essentially a nobody, but he would also have to return to his country of citizenship—Canada.

Stratten was not slipping through Snider’s fingers; she was gone. Playboy barred his entrance and wouldn’t allow him to try and present any more girls, like Patti. The club, which would become Chippendales, excluded him as a business partner. Snider faced setback after setback, which he viewed as insult after insult. Stratten attempted to lessen the blow, writing him a letter stating that she didn’t intend to hurt him, but she was no longer a teenager and beginning to realize what she truly wanted in life. It did no good.

Snider began to grasp at whatever he could to try and make money off Stratten. Pictures they had professionally taken of Stratten with an intent to distribute for profit was his last hope. When he flew out the managers of the photo business strategy, it was discovered that Stratten wasn’t staying at the Wyndham like she had told Snider but with Peter Bogdanovich in his suite, and she had been for weeks. Furthermore, Stratten decided against promoting the photos.

Snider was assured that Stratten was his meal ticket for the rest of his life. If he couldn’t have her, nobody could.

When the crew returned to Los Angeles, Stratten moved into Bogdanovich’s Bel Air home. Through the use of a private investigator, Snider figured out where that was and began sending Bogdanovich letters, instructing him to give Stratten back. The couple did their best to ignore Snider, focusing on working on a plethora of roles Stratten had been selected for and enjoying their relationship.

But Stratten could not entirely forget the man who found her. Her loyalty to Snider plagued her enough that she never stopped sending him money, even though they were separated, and she was happy with Bogdanovich. On August 8, 1980, Stratten officially moved everything from what was once her and Snider’s home and decided to try and permanently separate from her husband; without the help of lawyers.

Over the next few days, a dejected Snider obtained a .38 revolver from a friend and, at one point, sat outside Bogdanovich and Stratten’s home for over two hours. But he couldn’t go through with it and returned the gun. Unfortunately, his change of heart was short-lived. Snider then purchased a 12-gauge shotgun of his own. Across town, Stratten’s closest friends were begging her not to go meet Snider later that week to discuss the divorce. They urged her to seek professional legal help and never find herself alone with Snider.

On August 14, 1980, Stratten went to meet with Snider at their old apartment. Patti Laurman and Stephen Cushner were out when she parked in the drive around eleven thirty that morning.

Laurman returned home around five in the evening, only to quickly depart again to meet with a friend, noting that Snider’s door was closed and figuring he was meeting with Stratten. Cushner came back to the house about eight o’clock and noted the closed door as well, especially when he let his dog out and found him lingering around the door whining.

Around eleven that night, the private investigator Snider hired called Laurman, stating that he couldn’t get a response from Snider and wanted to know how his meeting with Stratten had gone. Laurman refused to open Snider’s door, but Cushner said he would do it.

When the door swung open, he found Snider and Stratten completely naked. Their bodies were sprawled across the floor. Stratten was lying near the end of the bed, a bullet wound from a 12-gauge shotgun marring her once beautiful face. An autopsy would later reveal that she had also been sodomized. The shotgun was discovered under Snider’s body, having been held so that he could shoot himself in the head. Bloody handprints dotted the carpet around Stratten’s body, a homemade bondage rack lay above her head, and chunks of her hair were uncovered in Snider’s hands. There was eleven hundred dollars cash in her purse, allegedly the down payment to Snider they had arranged in their divorce. The coroner suspected that within an hour of Stratten arriving at the home, Snider had killed her before going on to commit suicide about an hour later.

News of Stratten’s murder quickly spread to Hugh Hefner and the Playmates. Hefner called Bogdanovich to inform him of her passing, and he confirmed that he and Stratten were planning to be married just as soon as she was free of Snider.

Stratten was cremated and buried in the Westwood Village Memorial Park cemetery.

Stratten’s murder has gone on to be depicted in film, her life and death written about in books, and songs written and performed in her memory. A promising career and life so quickly snuffed out by a jealous lover. It may not be a mystery as to who killed Dorothy Stratten or why. But you have to wonder, what is the final breaking point that pushes someone from simply being miffed by their ex-wife to becoming a murderer?

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Written by : Sajjad A

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