Theresa Saldana isn’t a well-known name anymore. She was a television and screen actress, most notably for her role in The Commish, as police commissioner’s wife Rachel Scali, in a 1990s television series. She received Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role. She also starred in major roles in Raging Bull and the Beatle-mania movie, I Wanna Hold Your Hand.
But it was a terrifying murder attempt against Saldana that gained her the most headlines. On March 15, 1982, Saldana was stalked by a 46-year-old drifter from Aberdeen, Scotland named Arthur Richard Jackson. Jackson became obsessed with Saldana after seeing her in a number of movie roles. He hired a private investigator to find Saldana’s address and to get the unlisted phone number of Saldana’s mother. The pathological Jackson called Saldana’s mother and posed as Martin Scorsese’s assistant, saying he needed Saldana’s residential address in order to contact her for replacing an actress in a film role in Europe.
Jackson approached Saldana in front of her West Hollywood residence in daylight. He strode up to her, said her name and when she acknowledged him by turning to look at her, he stabbed her in the torso 10 times with a 5 1⁄2-inch (14 cm) knife, as she screamed in agony. His attack was so fierce that he bent the blade. There were many nearby onlookers but the attack was only interrupted when delivery man Jeff Fenn heard her cries, rushed from the second floor of an apartment building, and jumped on Jackson. Onlookers watched and did nothing. Fenn had to yell at someone to call an ambulance while Saldana nearly died in his arms.
Saldana recovered after four hours of surgery and a gruelling four-month hospital stay at the Motion Picture Hospital. She relived the incident in the made for TV movie Victims for Victims: The Theresa Saldana Story, about her ordeal and the survivor organization she spear-headed (pun) after the attack. She re-lived episode again in the television series Hunter (irony). Not only did Saldana’s organization bring about support for victims of brutal assault, it brought public attention to the passivity of onlookers, emphasizing that witnesses needed to become involved during public assaults and contact rescue services.
Eventually Saldana authored the book Beyond Survival, a memoir of her experiences after being attacked, including her divorce from husband Fred Feliciano.
Jackson served almost 14 years in prison for the assault and making subsequent threats against Saldana and her rescuer while in prison. He was then extradited to the United Kingdom in 1996 to be tried for a 1966 robbery/murder. Jackson described himself as “the benevolent angel of death.” He was found not guilty by diminished responsibility in 1997 and committed to a British psychiatric hospital, where he died of heart failure in 2004 at age 68. Alongside Saldana’s trauma, Jackson left behind another legacy: his method to find and approach Saldana inspired stalker Robert John Bardo to hire a private investigator to contact Rebecca Schaeffer, a beautiful young actress who starred in the television sitcom My Sister Sam, whom he subsequently murdered in 1989.