A look at this year's biggest celebrity shockers

The "Brokeback Mountain" star died of an accidental prescription drug overdose in January, and many months later, it was still tough to fathom. The Australia-born Ledger left behind a 3-year-old daughter and a bright career. He earned posthumous raves - and Oscar buzz - for his frightening performance as the Joker in the Batman blockbuster "The Dark Knight." ---

JENNIFER HUDSON'S TRAGEDY: The Oscar-winning actress and singer had a new fiance and solo album to boot when her worst nightmare came true. In late October, Hudson's mother and brother were found shot to death in the family home on Chicago's South Side, where Hudson grew up. Adding to the heartbreak, a frantic search began for her missing 7-year-old nephew Julian, whose body was discovered days later in the back of an abandoned SUV. Hudson's estranged brother-in-law, William Balfour, was formally charged with the triple murder the first week of December. ---

TRAVIS BARKER/DJ AM PLANE CRASH: The punk musician and celebrity disc jockey went through hell and came out the other side - changed forever. After performing in South Carolina on Sept. 19, they boarded a private plane bound for Los Angeles that crashed and killed the two pilots and two of their close friends. The surviving duo fled the burning wreckage; DJ AM, whose real name is Adam Goldstein, jumped through a fireball. The near-death experience left the performers emotionally scarred and badly burned, requiring weeks of treatment at various burn centers. Back in good form, the pair will reunite to headline a New Year's Eve party at a West Hollywood, Calif., nightclub. ---

PAULA ABDUL FAN DEATH: The "American Idol" judge has lived through her share of drama, but she wasn't prepared for the shocking death of Paula Goodspeed - an aspiring pop star and obsessed fan. Goodspeed, who grew up Sandra May McIntyre in her home state of Maine, was found dead Nov. 12 in a car near Abdul's Los Angeles home. The 30-year-old had dreamed of stardom and expressed her admiration for Abdul during a train-wreck audition on season five of Fox's "Idol" in which she was ridiculed for the braces on her teeth and a lack of talent. Goodspeed's family members said she struggled with depression and eating disorders as her show business dreams fell apart. Goodspeed died of a drug overdose the day before she was to have moved back home with her mother. ---

BERNIE MAC: Sending shock waves to his fans and celebrity friends, the comic actor died Aug. 9 in the Chicago area from complications due to pneumonia. Mac, who starred in his own TV sitcom and numerous movies including the "Ocean's 11" trilogy, did not live to see his final roles voicing the lion Zuba in "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" and starring alongside Samuel L. Jackson in "Soul Men." Speaking before thousands of mourners at the 50-year-old's memorial service, Jackson said: "He never turned that kid down for an autograph. He always had time to shake a hand. He was always that kid from Chicago who wanted to make everybody happy and everybody laugh."

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