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Bryan Cranston Was Once a Suspect in the Death of a Florida Chef

Photo Credit: Ming Yeung / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Ming Yeung / Getty Images

In the mid-1970s, actor Bryan Cranston, now best known for his roles on television shows Malcolm in the Middle and Breaking Bad, was at the top of a police suspect list in a 1970s Florida murder case. The body of Daytona Beach resident Peter Wong was found in the trunk of a car after he had been clubbed in the head and robbed. As it turns out, Cranston and his brother were working as servers at the same Polynesian restaurant, the Hawaiian Inn, where Wong worked as the head chef. Their quick departure from the area at the same time as Wong’s death made them look awfully suspicious.

Cranston and others casually discussed killing Wong

Headshot of Bryan Cranston.
Bryan Cranston attends the Tribeca Festival Awards Night during the 2021 Tribeca Festival at Spring Studios on June 17, 2021, in New York City. (Photo Credit: Dia Dipasupil / Getty Images for Tribeca Festival)

Cranston and his brother were in Daytona Beach because they were traveling across the country in search of theater work. While there, Cranston volunteered to fill a role in a production of “Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feeling So Sad” at the Daytona Playhouse in 1976. In order to supplement their income, he also worked in a local restaurant.

As Cranston later described, Wong “was a miserable human being, just a despicable man. He hated everyone and everyone hated him.” As such, it became common among his coworkers to casually discuss how each would hypothetically kill Wong. Jokingly, Cranston said if he were to do it, he’d chop the chef into pieces and stir-fry him.

Little did the employees of the Hawaiian Inn know that Wong would turn up dead and the police would come looking for the murderer right there in the restaurant.

Police were on the lookout for the Cranston motorcycles

Headshot of a young Bryan Cranston in front of tree branches and wearing a striped polo shirt.
Actor Bryan Cranston on August 13, 1984, poses for photographs in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo Credit: Ron Galella, Ltd. / Ron Galella Collection / Getty Images)

Right around the time Peter Wong was murdered, the Cranston brothers’ time at Daytona Beach had come to an end. With the season slowing down and not much theater work left, the brothers hopped on their motorcycles to head to their next destination. As you can imagine, this put quite a target on their backs when the police came asking questions.

The police investigated and interviewed employees of the Hawaiian Inn following Wong’s death, asking whether there was anyone there that disliked him, whether anyone had openly mentioned that they wanted to harm Wong, and whether had anyone recently left their job and the area.

The answers to these questions were that no one there liked him, they had all openly discussed killing Wong, and the Cranston brothers had promptly left right around the time Wong’s body was discovered. Naturally, this placed the Cranston brothers at the top of the suspect list, and the police put out an APB on their motorcycles.

What actually happened to Wong

Headshot of Bryan Cranston wearing a suit.
Actor Bryan Cranston, nominee for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play for “All The Way,” attends the 2014 Tony Awards Meet The Nominees Press Reception at the Paramount Hotel on April 30, 2014, in New York City. (Photo Credit: Neilson Barnard / Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

During the two-week investigation carried out by the police, Wong’s cause of death and those responsible for it were determined. It turns out that Wong, who was known for carrying large amounts of money on him, was picked up by an escort. She had lured him back to where she was staying. When they got there, her associates clubbed Wong on the head and robbed him. With Wong dead, they tucked his body in the trunk of a car.

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Billy Wayne Waughtel was arrested for the murder of Peter Wong, along with two accomplices. He pleaded guilty to the charges and was sent to prison, where he would later be killed. As it did not take long to determine who the real killers were, the police never caught up with Cranston or his brother.

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!