HOLLYWOOD -- -- The shotgun death of Mary Tyler Moore's son, Richard, is the latest chapter in a chronicle of tragedy which has stalked the lives of the children of the stars.
Richard Meeker, Mary's only child, was 24, employed by CBS-TV and living with a pair of college coeds when he killed himself with a shotgun with which one of his housemates said he was 'playing, loading and unloading.'
During part of his mother's successful TV career and her marriage to producer Grant Tinker, Richard lived in Fresno, Calif., with his father. He attended public school in Fresno for at least two years.
According to stepfather Tinker, 'Richard was a happy, well-adjusted kid.'
Richard lived with two co-eds near the University of Southern California and according to one of them, Judy Vasquez, 21, was talking happily to his girlfriend in Fresno when the shotgun discharged.
One of Richard's superiors at CBS, where he was a messenger, said he was a normal, well-adjusted young man, adding, 'Nobody will ever make me believe his death was anything but an accident.'
Another friend said he collected and enjoyed guns and target shooting,
Richard was rarely photographed with his famous mother and purposely was sheltered from the publicity which had swathed his mother almost from his birth.
Psychologists over the years have said that having famous, highly publicized parents in any field is a burden to children, destroying their self-esteem, causing identity crises and emotional problems.
Two years ago it was Scott Newman, Paul Newman's 28-year-old son, who died from an overdose of drugs and alcohol. He was Newman's son by his first marriage, to Jackie Witte.
In recent years the children of Gregory Peck, Art Linkletter, Dan Dailey and James Arness took their lives.
Jonathan Peck, 30, shot himself to death more than three years ago. Dan Dailey III was 27 when he turned a pistol on himself.
In 1975, Jenny Arness, 24-year-old daughter of Jim Arness, died of an overdose of sleeping pills.
Art Linkletter's daughter, Diane, 20, jumped to her death from a sixth floor apartment window after taking LSD.
Both Edward G. Robinson Jr. and John Barrymore's daughter, Diana, died from the lethal mixture of drugs and alcohol.
The plight of many Hollywood children was described two years ago in Christina Crawford's expose of her mother, Joan Crawford, in the best-seller, 'Mommy Dearest.'
Bing Crosby's first four sons have often expressed resentment at the life they led as children when their father was a superstar and their mother an alcoholic.