A judge on Tuesday convicted Timothy Scott Roman of involuntary manslaughter in the 1986 bludgeoning death of his mother, actress Susan Cabot, famed for her roles in B-movies and her romance with Jordan's King Hussein.
However, Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Darlene E. Schempp declined to find Roman guilty of murder. She said there is no evidence that Roman premeditated bludgeoning Cabot to death with a barbell in the Encino home they shared. Premeditation would have been required to prove murder.
"There is no question that the defendant loved his mother very much," said Schempp, who presided over Roman's six-day, non-jury trial. Cabot, 59, was found dead across her bed in a blood-soaked nightgown on the night of Dec. 10, 1986. She had been clubbed repeatedly on the head.
The verdict was delivered just 10 minutes after closing arguments, which lasted less than an hour. One of Roman's two attorneys ushered him out of the courtroom through a rear exit immediately afterward. His grandmother said she and Roman are "just overjoyed at the verdict."
"Oh, what we have gone through. Timothy and I are just drained," said Elizabeth Roman, who sat through her grandson's trial. "It's time to start a whole new life. We are taking him away from this area, this town."
Roman, a 25-year-old former art student, could receive a maximum sentence of four years and a minimum sentence of probation. Since he has already spent about 2 1/2 years in jail, he could conceivably have enough credits for good behavior and jail work to have fulfilled his sentence, officials said. Schempp scheduled sentencing for Nov. 29.
"It was an extremely tough call for the judge to have to make," said the prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. Bradford E. Stone.
Stone originally was seeking a murder conviction but asked Schempp in closing arguments to convict Cabot of voluntary manslaughter, an unlawful killing without malice but with intent to kill. Stone said he decided to seek conviction on the lesser offense late last week after hearing the defense case and deciding Roman did not act with premeditation.
Richard P. Lasting and Michael V. White, Roman's attorneys, did not dispute that Roman killed his mother. However, they asked Schempp to acquit Roman or find him guilty only of involuntary manslaughter, which is unlawful killing without malice or intent. They contended that Cabot provoked the killing with aggressive, irrational behavior and that Roman's actions were caused by hormones and drugs he took because he did not have a pituitary gland.
Born a dwarf, Roman's growth to his present height of 5 feet, 4 inches was induced with thrice-weekly injections of a hormone derived from the pituitary glands of cadavers. A former attorney once called him "a failed human experiment." The attorney claimed the experimental treatments caused aberrant behavior.
Schempp said she was swayed by testimony that Cabot was deeply depressed, suicidal and suffering from increasing mental deterioration in the days before her death.
Schempp particularly cited the testimony of Cabot's longtime psychologist that his 50-minute sessions with the actress were so emotionally draining that he felt sorry for Roman, whom he surmised constantly lived with Cabot's fears.
Schempp also noted her shock at a videotape showing the slovenly, unkempt condition of Cabot's Encino house. The tape and testimony showed the house to be littered with newspapers that were three to four years old and spoiled food.
"It was beyond my imagination that a person of such success and notoriety at one time could live in such indescribable conditions," Schempp said.
During the trial, Roman testified that his mother seemed not to recognize him and was screaming, talking to herself and calling for her mother on the night of the killing. When Roman tried to call paramedics, he testified, his mother attacked him with a weight bar and scalpel.
Roman said he later found Cabot dead but does not remember killing her. He admitted lying to police, telling them a burglar in a Ninja mask had killed his mother, and said he hid the barbell and scalpel because he didn't think anyone would believe his story.
Roman, who has been free since June on $25,000 bail and living with his grandmother in Los Angeles, had faced a maximum sentence of life in prison.
In May, Schempp granted Roman a mistrial about a month into the proceedings after his attorney, Chester Leo Smith, was admitted to a hospital with what were said to be stress-related heart problems.
Had he not bowed out, Roman's family had vowed to fire the attorney for, among other things, revealing to jurors that Roman had confessed to police that he killed his mother. The information otherwise would have been excluded from the jury since Roman had asked to have a lawyer present before confessing.