Spector Said He Shot Actress by Accident, Officer Told Grand Jury

Times Staff Writer

Music producer Phil Spector told police that he fatally shot an actress by “accident,” but later changed his story, saying she had committed suicide in his Alhambra mansion, according to testimony before a Los Angeles County grand jury.

Grand jurors also heard three women testify that Spector had separately threatened each of them with a gun, suggesting he had a habit of brandishing weapons, according to the documents. He did not testify before the grand jury.

Spector now contends that actress Lana Clarkson fatally shot herself in his home on Feb. 3, 2003.


The five volumes of transcripts of secret grand jury proceedings leading up to Spector’s indictment for murder on Sept. 27 were made public after The Times won a legal challenge to their closure.

The transcripts offer the first detailed view of the nature and extent of the state’s case against Spector, and they show that he allegedly implicated himself in the crime.

Spector, 64, has pleaded not guilty. He could face life in prison if convicted.

According to the transcripts, Alhambra Police Officer Beatrice Rodriguez testified that when police arrived at Spector’s home after the shooting, Spector said, “What’s wrong with you guys? What are you doing? I didn’t mean to shoot her. It was an accident.”

Spector’s driver, Adriano De Souza, testified that as he waited outside the house he heard a shot and that three minutes later, Spector emerged holding a revolver.

He testified that Spector told him, “I think I killed somebody,” according to the transcript.

De Souza testified that when he asked Spector what happened, Spector shrugged his shoulders and didn’t say anything.


Clarkson, 40, died of a single gunshot wound to the head. No one else was in the house. A police search turned up her broken teeth scattered about the foyer and a nearby stairway.

According to the transcript, police found Clarkson’s blood smeared on the wood railing of the stairway, a back door handle and on a gun found under her leg. According to the documents, detectives also discovered her blood on Spector’s white coat found in an upstairs dressing room and on a cloth soaked in her blood in a bathroom.

The transcripts also recount the testimony of several women who described incidents in which Spector allegedly had acted recklessly and threatened them with firearms.

Deputy Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Doug Sortino told grand jurors that the women’s testimony rebutted Spector’s claim that the actress committed suicide and showed that he was guilty of implied malice, which holds that he acted in such an “inherently dangerous” way that he could be held responsible for murder.

Deborah Strand told the grand jury that she did not know who Spector was when she saw her boyfriend’s golden retriever, Dolly, jumping on a holiday party guest in the foyer of their Beverly Hills-area home in 1999. She described the guest -- whom she later learned was Spector -- as a “drunk Dudley Moore.”

“He was trying to get the dog away, and he acted disgruntled and he flicked an ash [from his cigar] on top of the dog,” Strand testified.


She said she “didn’t know who this person was and why he was there,” but he appeared not to be having a good time. “And I said, ‘You can leave.’ ” The man turned around, she said, and pointed a handgun at her right cheek.

“He said, ‘What are you going to say now?’ ” Strand told the grand jury.

“He looked at me, and I looked at his bodyguard [who] was standing by the entranceway and I said, ‘Get him out of here now.’ And he -- that registered in his head, and he immediately took the gun off of my face, put it away; and in a matter of seconds they left without force. They just walked out, that was it.”

After the incident, a friend, Randy Ostin, whose father, Mo, is the former president and chairman of the board of Warner Bros. Records, told Strand that the man she had encountered was Spector, Strand testified. She said she didn’t think much of the incident until after Clarkson’s death. Only then did she contact authorities.

Two women who dated Spector in the 1990s testified that, in separate instances, the producer used a gun to keep them from leaving his Alhambra home and a posh New York hotel room.

Dorothy Tiano Melvin testified that Spector had hit her twice in the head with his right fist while clutching a revolver, as she tried to leave his estate over the July 4, 1993, weekend.

Melvin, who was Joan Rivers’ manager at the time, said she had known Spector for a few years when he lived in New York. It was the first time she had been to his Alhambra home. Melvin testified that Spector became agitated while she was asleep on a sofa in his 33-room estate.


Melvin said she woke up to find Spector pointing a handgun at her new car in his driveway.

When she confronted him outside, she said, Spector “whirled around and he pointed the gun at me” and told her to go inside. “I was terrified,” she testified, according to the grand jury transcript.

Once inside, Spector sat on a staircase in the foyer, pointing the gun at Melvin from about five feet away, the woman testified. He repeatedly demanded that she undress and go to the third floor, where the bedrooms are, Melvin testified. When she refused, she said he hit her again.

“He said, ‘You’re a liar. You weren’t on the couch. Where were you? You were searching my house. You were snooping. You were stealing things,’ ” according to her testimony. She said he took her purse and went through it.

When Spector finally ordered her out of his house, Melvin, sobbing, ran to her car and drove down the hill to the locked gate, according to her testimony.

“I heard him running down the drive, and then I heard the pump of a shotgun,” she testified. When she turned around to look, she said, she saw Spector pointing a shotgun at her.

When she told him the gate was locked, he said he would open it and went back toward the house, she testified.


Outside the gate, Melvin said, she called police. She told the grand jury that she later agreed not to file charges against Spector if he would return her purse, which he did.

Photographer Stephanie Elizabeth Jennings testified that she had accompanied Spector to a party after the 1995 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in New York.

Later, back in her room at the Carlyle Hotel, Jennings said, Spector’s bodyguard appeared at the door and announced that Spector wanted her to join him in his room. She said no.

Spector came to her room next, and she again refused his request that she join him in his room, she testified. Spector blocked the door with a chair and a gun and would not let her leave, she said.

Jennings testified that she used her hotel phone to call 911 without Spector ever suspecting that she was talking to police.

“He said, “You can call your mom. She can’t do anything,’ something to that effect,” Jennings testified before the grand jury. When she got off the phone, she said, he left the room without incident.


Several friends of Clarkson testified that she had been optimistic about the future.

In the hours before her death, Clarkson told Dianne Bennett that she was “finally ready to get married and have a family,” according to Bennett’s testimony before the grand jury. Bennett testified that Clarkson had told her that she was happy, had a new house and “a great new job.”

Late Thursday, Spector’s defense asked the California Supreme Court to block release of the transcripts. A state Court of Appeal in Los Angeles on Wednesday lifted a stay that had been in effect since Nov. 19, when Spector asked appellate judges to block disclosure.