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Actress, Victims Advocate Theresa Saldana Dies At 61

Actors Theresa Saldana and Joe Pesci in the 1980 film <em>Raging Bull</em>. Saldana died at the age of 61.
United Artists/The Kobal Collection
Actors Theresa Saldana and Joe Pesci in the 1980 film Raging Bull. Saldana died at the age of 61.

Theresa Saldana, an actress and victims advocate, died Monday in Los Angeles at the age of 61.

Theresa Saldana leaves the Beverly Hills court building where she had given testimony during a preliminary hearing in 1982 of Arthur Richard Jackson, who was later convicted of attempted murder. Saldana is heavily bandaged following a knife attack by Jackson on March 15, 1982.
Craig Molenhouse / AP
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AP
Theresa Saldana leaves the Beverly Hills court building where she had given testimony during a preliminary hearing in 1982 of Arthur Richard Jackson, who was later convicted of attempted murder. Saldana is heavily bandaged following a knife attack by Jackson on March 15, 1982.

She worked in movies such as I Wanna Hold Your Hand and Raging Bull.

In 1982, she was stabbed 10 times outside her West Hollywood apartment by a man who had become obsessed with her. She survived the attack, and the man was convicted of attempted murder. But Saldana told NPR the man continued sending her disturbing, threatening letters.

As a way to cope with the trauma, she turned to other victims of violent crimes. She helped start support groups, and encouraged others to do the same. She starred in a TV movie about her life, titled Victims for Victims: The Theresa Saldana Story.

In 1984 she told NPR, "as you see in the film, the period when I finally meet other victims is when I take a step toward help. When you meet with other people is when you realize you're not alone, and it's easier to cope when you're not the only one who's been through it."

She continued acting, getting her most prominent starring role in the 1990s TV show The Commish.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.