The Last Take

Did A Hollywood Actress' Secret Love Diary Lead To Her Murder?

This story was first broadcast on April 26, 2008. It was updated on Oct. 3, 2008.

Christa Helm, an aspiring Hollywood actress, was murdered on Feb. 12, 1977, when she was stabbed and bludgeoned outside her agent's home in West Hollywood.

Christa enjoyed the Hollywood life and parties, and according to her daughter hung out with lots of famous people, like Joe Namath, Mick Jagger, Warren Beatty and even the Shah of Iran.

But as correspondent Maureen Maher reports, Christa also kept a "love diary," as well as tape recordings of her encounters with the rich and famous.

Did the diary and recordings play a role in her murder? Or was she just a victim of a random crime? Investigators are still trying to solve the mystery.

After more than 30 years, Christa's daughter hopes a fresh look by police will finally crack this case and bring the killer to justice.



"She had a charisma that was just overwhelming. She had warmth that made people drawn to her on a regular basis. She was powerful and strong and took no bull…she was a very complicated, beautiful human being," remembers Christa's daughter Nicole, who doesn't want 48 Hours to mention her last name or reveal where she lives because her mother's killer has never been caught.

And, says Nicole, her mother was born to be a star. "From the time she was a little girl, she would dance and sing and tell everyone she was gonna be a movie star when she grew up, and of course in little Milwaukee Wis., no one believed her."

Smart, sexy and stunningly beautiful, Christa was the classic small town girl with a big Hollywood dream. She was determined to become a star and she had the energy and unyielding ambition to make it happen.

"We had a saying between the two of us, 'All's fair in love and war' and she lived by those words. Nothing would really stop her from getting what she wanted," remembers Christa's longtime friend Darlene Thoresen.

Not even a shot-gun wedding would stop her, when Christa was just 17 years old. "She was a teenager. He owned a karate studio, they were married in Chicago, and the morning after their wedding she woke up in their honeymoon suite and my father was gone," Nicole says.

That was in 1967. Nicole was born a few months later, but within a couple of years, her young and ambitious mother grew restless and took off to follow her dream. The first stop was New York, where she found work as a model.

Taking the city by storm would be impossible with a toddler in tow, so Nicole was left behind in the care of a good friend. But Christa promised she and Nicole would one day be together. "I was supposed to be with her when I turned 10," Nicole says. Until then, Nicole was a visitor in her mother's life.

Her model good looks and splashy personality made Christa a natural for New York's party scene in the early 1970's. "If she walked into a room, if everyone in the room hadn't stopped to notice her walk in, then she would come back in again and get it right," remembers Christa's sister Marisa Rahm, who was also a some-time actress, and was often at Christa's side.

One of the first people Christa met in New York was a wealthy patron of the arts named Stuart Duncan. He took an interest in Christa's career, opening doors for her. "She was throwing parties for big names, the Rolling Stones. She actually got 'Bachelorette of the Month' with Cosmopolitan. There were definitely big figures in her life," Marisa says. "The Shah of Iran she dated and he sent her jewels."

Christa also picked up a fancy new "best friend for life," a flamboyant New York clothing designer named Lennie Barin.

And then in 1973, Christa got the break she'd been waiting for: Stuart Duncan gave her a starring role in a movie called "Let's Go For Broke."

The movie opened in Cincinnati in 1974 and promptly closed in just four days. Undeterred, a few months later, Christa headed straight for Hollywood, where she landed bit roles in "Wonder Woman" and "Starsky & Hutch."

Nicole remembers visiting her mother at a Beverly Hills mansion belonging to famous financier Bernie Cornfeld. "This was a spectacular mansion. It was absolutely enormous. I'd never seen anything like it, it was the first place I'd ever seen that had maid's quarters," Nicole remembers.

Christa was not only ambitious and adventurous, she also liked to keep score. Her friends say she kept a secret sex diary, complete with a rating system.

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