Until this week, actor Stephen Collins was best known for playing the wholesome, family-oriented Rev. Eric Camden on the long-running TV show "7th Heaven."
After recently overcoming health issues, the 67-year-old Tarzana resident had returned to work, signing on for roles on popular television shows and a movie sequel.
But an audio recording surfaced this week in which a man whom police believe is Collins confessed to exposing himself to and sexually abusing three underage girls. Police in Los Angeles and New York said they reviewed the recording after receiving information in 2012 that the actor may have molested children years ago.
In response to the news, the actor was quickly dropped from the upcoming movie "Ted 2" and reruns of his hit show were yanked from the air. On Wednesday, more details emerged about the allegations.
In divorce documents filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Collins' estranged wife said she learned of her husband's "secret life" during a January 2012 therapy session.
"I believe that Stephen used his celebrity status to engender the trust of the families of the children he molested," Faye Grant wrote. "I further believe that there have been other victims, but he has thus far only confessed to those three girls."
Grant wrote that she was shocked and "sickened" by the revelations. Two weeks after the therapy session, the couple separated, according to the court records. Grant said she also contacted police in New York and Los Angeles.
She wrote in the court files that she was concerned she may face civil liability for his alleged crimes, and asked a judge to rule that only Collins would be accountable. A trial in the case is scheduled to begin next month.
Collins' attorney, Mark Vincent Kaplan, did not directly address the alleged abuse in his response filed with the court. But he called Grant's attempt to seek a trial a "blatant misuse" of the judicial system and an "attempt to extort concessions." Kaplan did not return requests for comment.
An attorney for Grant, Larry Ginsberg, said in a statement that his client did not make the tape public and had never tried to use the audio "to extort a settlement from Collins."
The Los Angeles Police Department said it began an investigation of Collins in 2012 after a woman contacted police to say he molested her in New York 40 years earlier and that she thought he may have molested one of his relatives in California. LAPD Capt. Fabian Lizarraga said investigators repeatedly reached out to the relative, but she never responded. The allegation was never substantiated, he said.
"We can't force her to talk to us," he said. "She's an adult now."
Lizarraga said investigators also spoke to Collins' estranged wife and obtained a recording of the therapy session. By the time TMZ posted what it said was a portion of that recording on its website Tuesday, the LAPD's case was no longer active. The department said it was taking another look at its earlier investigation.
The New York Police Department said its ongoing investigation began with a complaint in 2012 involving an incident alleged to have occurred in 1972.
The complaint said Collins forced a then-14-year-old girl to commit a lewd act inside his Manhattan apartment, New York police said. Special Victims detectives are investigating the claim.
Elizabeth Kase, a criminal defense attorney in New York state, said the deadline for filing charges for felony sex crimes with minors in New York is five years from the time the victim turns 18. However, she said, there is no statute of limitations for rape and other penetration crimes involving minors.
In California, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 limited the prosecution of sex crimes involving minors to offenses that occurred after Jan. 1, 1988.
In the divorce documents, Grant described the comfortable life she lived with her husband of 27 years and their daughter. The family shared three homes in Brentwood, one of which was used extensively to entertain guests and host charity events. They took summer trips to Europe and spent spring breaks in Hawaii, flying first-class and staying in five-star resorts.
Collins moved out of the Brentwood properties a month after the therapy session, Grant wrote. She said his therapist later told her Collins had "narcissistic personality disorder with sociopathic tendencies."
Grant said that in December 2012 she received two letters and a phone call from the husband of one of Collins' alleged victims. The man, the court documents said, "berated her for failing to turn Stephen over to the police, and threatened to bring a civil lawsuit against" her over Collins' actions.
"I have urged Stephen multiple times to seek proper treatment for pedophilia," she wrote. "However, he has refused to seek proper help or hospitalization for his predilection towards children. He has insisted that my concerns are unfounded."