The Tragic 2013 Murder Of Model Reeva Steenkamp

Oscar Pistorius — world-class sprinter, Paralympian, and Olympian — opened fire with his 9mm handgun. The four hollow-point bullets ripped through the wood of the locked bathroom door in the Pretoria, South Africa home he shared with his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp (per "One Tragic Night: The Oscar Pistorius Murder Trial"). On the other side of the door, three bullets ripped through Steenkamp's flesh and bone, fatally wounding her. Pistorius then broke down the door with a cricket bat and carried her out and down the stairs to the front door. Arterial blood from Steenkamp's wounds left a trail through the house.

Pistorius later said he believed there was a dangerous intruder in his bathroom when he opened fire, per the New York Daily News. Police and prosecutors disagreed. They were sure he had meant to kill his girlfriend after a heated argument. A drawn-out court case stretching across almost five years ended with his murder conviction and a 15-year sentence.

A model and law school graduate

Reeva Steenkamp, who was born in Cape Town, South Africa, was a law school graduate and model who had begun a television career as a presenter on FashionTV, according to CNN. She also appeared on a reality TV show in footage taped before her death. At 29, her future looked bright. She used her platform to advocate for women's issues. Her publicist, Sarit Tomlinson, told CBS News in February 2013 that Steenkamp was "a very inspiring individual, very passionate about speaking about women and empowerment."

Steenkamp began dating Oscar Pistorius in November 2012, and while outwardly all seemed well, his jealousy and anger issues frightened her. "I'm scared of you sometimes and how you snap at me and of how you will react to me," she wrote to him in a WhatsApp message (via the Daily Mail). A former girlfriend alleged she too had been afraid of Pistorius' behavior and even hid his gun at one point, fearing he might shoot her. In the early hours of Valentine's Day 2013, neighbors claimed they heard arguing coming from Pistorius' home before he murdered Steenkamp, per "One Tragic Night."

A deadly Valentine's Day

Oscar Pistorius' neighbor, Dr. Johan Stipp, was the first to arrive at the home after the shooting and found the athlete cradling his dying girlfriend inside the house. "I shot her," Stipp recalled Pistorius saying (via The Guardian). "I thought she was a burglar. I shot her." Stipp, after seeing the extent of Steenkamp's injuries — including a head wound — and looking for vital signs, knew she'd been "mortally wounded."

Prosecutors charged Pistorius with murder, but in 2014, Judge Thokozile Masipa instead convicted him of the lesser crime of manslaughter and sentenced him to five years in prison, per the AP. In 2016, the South African Supreme Court of Appeal upgraded Pistorius' conviction to murder, and Masipa re-sentenced him to a total of six years. Then, in November 2017, the Supreme Court of Appeal, finding the sentence "shockingly lenient" and noting that Pistorius showed "a lack of remorse," added 13 years and five months to the year and seven months he'd already served. On January 5, 2023, prison officials released Pistorius on parole, per The Guardian. He had served nine years in prison.