CHERYL CHRISTINA CRANE is an American retired real estate broker, former model, and author of five books. She is the only child of actress Lana Turner. Her father was Turner’s second husband, actor-turned-restaurateur Steve Crane. She was the subject of significant media attention in 1958 when, at fourteen years old, she stabbed to death her mother’s lover, Johnny Stompanato, during a domestic struggle; she was not charged, and his death was deemed a justifiable homicide.
In the years following Stompanato’s death, Crane’s rebellious behavior was well-documented in the press. Upon graduating from high school, she briefly worked as a model before entering the restaurant business, working at the Luau, a Polynesian restaurant owned by her father. She would later study restaurant management and hospitality at Cornell University, hoping to become a restaurateur.
In the 1980s, Crane shifted her career focus to real estate, becoming a broker in Hawaii and Palm Springs, California. In 1988, she authored a memoir titled Detour: A Hollywood Story, and in 2011 published her first fiction work, The Bad Always Die Twice.
On April 4, 1958, at age 14, Crane stabbed her mother’s boyfriend, Johnny Stompanato, to death. The killing was ruled a justifiable homicide: she was deemed to have been protecting her mother. Stompanato was well-known to have been abusive, extremely jealous of Turner and had previously pointed a gun at actor Sean Connery, her co-star in Another Time, Another Place, only to have Connery “take the gun from him, beat him, and force him from the movie set” after which “Scotland Yard had him deported.”
Following Stompanato’s death, Crane was made a ward of the State of California and was placed in the El Retiro School for Girls in Sylmar, Los Angeles for “psychiatric therapy” in March 1960. Six weeks later she and two other girls climbed a 10-foot (3.0 m) wall and fled. They were eventually returned to the school after she telephoned her father. Five weeks later, she again fled the campus with two other girls. They walked into Sylmar and were driven by a new acquaintance to Beverly Hills, where they were taken into custody a few hours later after being seen near her grandmother’s home. She was released from the school in January 1961 to the custody of her mother and stepfather, Frederick D. May. Worried she was still suffering from the trauma of Stompanato’s death, Turner sent Crane to the Institute of Living in Hartford, Connecticut.
In 1988, Crane published a memoir titled Detour: A Hollywood Story, in which she discussed the Stompanato killing publicly for the first time and admitted to the stabbing. She further alleged that she was subject to a series of sexual assaults at the hands of her stepfather and her mother’s fourth husband, actor Lex Barker. The book went on to become a New York Times Best Seller. In it, Crane also publicly revealed how at age thirteen she had come out as a lesbian to her parents, “I knew from the age of six…for years [my mother would] never mention it to anyone. Her friends knew that she knew, but that was it. With this book, we bit into it. Mother said to [Joyce] and me “‘Don’t you realize what you are letting yourself in for?’ Then she understood this was my book, not her book. One day we were on this subject (homosexuality) and she asked me, ‘You mean it wasn’t something I did? It wasn’t environmental?’ And when I said “no,’ I saw a huge weight being lifted from her.”
Turner would later state that she regarded Crane’s partner, LeRoy, “as a second daughter.” Upon Turner’s death in 1995, Crane and LeRoy inherited Turner’s personal effects as well as $50,000 (her estate was estimated in court documents to be worth $1.7 million [$3.1 million in 2020 dollars] with the majority of her estate being left to Carmen Lopez Cruz, her maid and companion for 45 years. Crane challenged the will and Lopez claimed that the majority of the estate was consumed by probate costs, legal fees, and medical expenses.
In November 2014, Crane married LeRoy, her longtime partner, after having been together for over four decades.