Son Accused of Killing Actress Tells Court She Attacked Him

Times Staff Writer

Taking the witness stand in his own defense for the first time Thursday, Timothy Scott Roman tearfully testified that his mother, actress Susan Cabot, attacked him with a barbell and a scalpel the night she was found bludgeoned to death in her Encino home.

Roman, dressed in a neat gray pinstripe suit, spoke softly as he described finding his mother dead in her room. But, he said, he does not remember killing her, as prosecutors allege.

Roman, a 25-year-old former art student, is charged with bludgeoning Cabot, a 1950s-era B-movie actress, to death with a barbell on Dec. 10, 1986. Roman pleaded not guilty, and Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Darlene E. Schempp is conducting his non-jury trial.


Roman portrayed his mother, who was 59 at the time of her death, as suffering from increasing physical and mental deterioration, which led him to call her doctor the day before her death. Cabot had severe asthma and seemed to be having a nervous breakdown, Roman said softly.

Call Precipitated Attack

Roman said his mother’s doctor instructed him to call paramedics if her condition worsened. His attempt to call them the next night precipitated Cabot’s attack, he said.

“I didn’t know what was wrong with her. I’d never seen her this bad before,” Roman said under questioning from Richard P. Lasting, one of his two lawyers.

“She was screaming. She was calling for her mother. She was talking to herself. I thought I’d better get help for her.”

But when Roman picked up the phone beside Cabot’s bed, she started screaming at him to put the phone down and leave her alone, Roman testified.

‘Didn’t Know What to Do’

“Then she started saying, ‘Who are you?’ ” Roman testified. “I just stood there. I didn’t know what to do. She got off the bed and picked up a weight bar. She picked it up and started swinging it at me. She might have grazed me. I’m not sure.”


Roman, born a dwarf and treated with growth hormones, is 5 feet, 4 inches tall.

Roman then burst into tears and was unable to continue. After a short court recess, he said Cabot attacked him with the scalpel, which he said she kept to cut plants and flowers.

“I was trying to push her away from me, just to get out of that room,” he said.

He said he does not remember what happened next until he realized that his mother was dead.

Roman admitted that he lied to police, telling them that a burglar in a Ninja mask had killed his mother, and that he hid the barbell and scalpel because he was scared and “didn’t think anyone would understand the circumstances.”

In other testimony, Michael Carter, a tutor hired by Cabot to help Roman with his schoolwork, testified that Cabot was prone to histrionics and frequently shrieked at Roman during the about 100 tutoring sessions he conducted at the Cabot home. Carter said Roman was protective of his mother and never grew angry in return.

The Cabot home was dirty and unkempt, littered with food and newspapers that were three to four years old, Carter said, adding: “It was difficult to find a place to work with Tim because there was so much stuff around.”

Roman, who has been free since June on $25,000 bail, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison because prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty.


His first trial ended in a mistrial after his lawyer complained of stress-induced heart problems.