The Tragic Murder Of Adrienne Shelly Explained

Adrienne Shelly was an actress, screenwriter, and director whose senseless death has overshadowed her successful film career (via The Daily Beast). According to the New York Post, Shelly starred in more than 20 films during her lifetime. It would be her film "Waitress," however, that would bring her the critical acclaim she deserved. The Guardian reports that Shelly wrote the screenplay when she was pregnant with her daughter. She would go on to direct the indie film with Keri Russell playing the lead role. "Waitress" would later be accepted into the Sundance Film Festival and be turned into a popular Broadway musical.

Tragically, Shelly would never get to experience or even know about her film's success. She died on November 1, 2006, before "Waitress" was released (per the Daily Mail). The Cinemaholic writes that her husband, Andy Ostroy, became worried when Shelly failed to check in with him. Ostroy had dropped her off at her office earlier that day and when she still hadn't contacted him, he headed to the building. There he found a horrifying scene. Shelly was dead in the bathroom, hanging from a shower rod. TV Insider reports that police believed she had committed suicide.

Adrienne Shelly's husband was not convinced her death was a suicide

According to The Cinemaholic, Ostroy and other members of Shelly's family did not believe she had taken her own life. Her career was flourishing and Shelly was a dedicated mother to her small child. At Ostroy's insistence, police continued their investigation and found footprints left in Shelly's bathroom (via The Guardian). They were quickly identified as belonging to 19-year-old construction worker, Diego Pillco. The New York Post writes that Pillco was working on another apartment in Shelly's building. A footprint in that apartment matched the one in Shelly's bathroom. Pillco was arrested and quickly confessed to the murder.

The Daily Beast reported that Pillco made his way into Shelly's apartment to burglarize it. She caught him and threatened to call the police. That's when Pillco attacked and ultimately strangled the 5'2 star. Hoping he wouldn't get caught, he hung her in the shower using a bedsheet to stage a suicide. 

Of course, Pillco was caught and later plead guilty to first-degree manslaughter. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison. In 2021, HBO released the documentary "Adrienne," directed by Ostroy. The film focuses on his late wife's life and death. Per the Daily Mail, Ostroy decided to make the film after realizing most people did not know who Shelly was while watching a stage production of "Waitress."