Family Defends Memory of Slain Actress

ByABC News

Jan. 27, 2005 -- -- Early on Feb. 3, 2003, a beautiful actress was found fatally shot in the face at the Los Angeles mansion of legendary record producer Phil Spector.

Lana Clarkson, 40, had a very steady and quite successful career in Hollywood.

She had appeared in hit shows like "Three's Company," "The Jeffersons," "The A-Team," "Knight Rider" and "Night Court." Low-budget film director Roger Corman even built a series of movies around her called "Barbarian Queen."

But shortly after Clarkson's death, her family began hearing media reports in which she was referred to as a "B-movie actress" who was "struggling" in her career. A woman who spoke to ABC News from inside the gate at Spector's mansion described Clarkson as "washed up."

Crime writer Carlton Smith, who recently wrote a book on the case, "Reckless: Millionaire Record Producer Phil Spector and the Violent Death of Lana Clarkson," said, "There are a lot of people in this town who like to look for the worst in people."

Clarkson's relatives are dismayed. They have broken their silence for the first time since her death to defend her reputation.

"I'd like Mr. Spector to tell the truth. I'd like him to tell everyone what happened," Donna Clarkson, Lana's mother, said in an exclusive interview with ABC News' "Primetime Live."

Spector is expected to go on trial for murder later this year. He was charged in November 2003, but the complaint did not specify whether prosecutors will seek a first- or second-degree murder conviction. He has been free on $1 million bail.

In an interview with Esquire magazine shortly after Clarkson's death, Spector said the actress drunkenly "kissed the gun" and killed herself. But Fawn Clarkson, Lana's sister, said the notion was "preposterous."

"I've known my sister my whole life and there's no way she committed suicide. She was going to take me to go see the movie 'Chicago,'" Fawn said. "That's ridiculous."

Donna Clarkson, Lana's mother, told ABC News' John Quiñones: "My answer to 'Did she kill herself?' is 'Of course not.' "

Asked if they believe Spector is guilty, Donna Clarkson said, "I think the evidence will speak for itself -- and in my heart I know the truth. I know my daughter."

When Clarkson was killed, she had not worked as an actress for a year because she had broken both her wrists in a bad fall in 2001, her family says.

Clarkson had been preparing to resume her acting career, and took a job as a hostess at Los Angeles' House of Blues in order to pay her bills. Her family says it was Clarkson's first job outside show business in two decades.

"She was actually a little embarrassed that here she was [working as a hostess], because she'd always worked as an actor," Donna Clarkson said. However, both Donna and Fawn Clarkson emphasized that Lana was in excellent spirits in her new job.

"She was fine," Fawn said. "There is no way she was feeling down or depressed. I saw her the night before her last shift."

Lana Clarkson met Spector for the first time on that last shift, when he visited the club and restaurant as a customer.

According to newly released transcripts of a grand jury investigation, Clarkson left the House of Blues at 2:30 a.m. to help a visibly drunk Spector to his car. Spector's driver said the producer was so impaired he was incapable of walking alone.

The driver said Spector invited Clarkson to his home, but she initially declined. He said Spector persisted "two or three times" before she accepted.

Asked why her daughter might accept such a late-night invitation from the eccentric music producer, Donna Clarkson said, "I don't think it was unusual. Most of the time, when you're a musician, you're up all night. And you know, you socialize at night."

Clarkson had also just completed production of an elaborate comedy showcase -- a tape of comedy sketches she had written and performed as a kind of audition package for Hollywood producers. She had sent out several dozen tapes and had enlisted an agent to help sell her comedic talents.

Donna added that she always believed her daughter could take care of herself. After all, Clarkson was 6 feet tall, and Spector is 5 foot 3.

But Clarkson's family and friends would not have been so comfortable if they knew what they know about Spector today -- that the pop icon apparently has a dark, angry side and a fascination with guns.

In grand jury testimony three other women -- one a former publicist for comedian Joan Rivers -- described incidents in which they said a threatening Spector brandished and then pointed guns at them. Two of the alleged incidents took place in Spector's home, and another in a hotel room.

Spector's driver says on the morning of Clarkson's death, he heard a "pow" and moments later, the record producer emerged from his house holding a gun and with blood on his hand. The driver said Spector said, "I think I killed somebody."

The police were on the scene shortly thereafter. They say they found an eerie scene: Clarkson seated in a chair, fully dressed, but unresponsive. A gun was lying on the floor beneath her. The coroner's report adds that Spector was standing nearby with his hands in his pockets. When he refused to pull them out, the report says, police shot him with a taser gun.

Spector disputes the testimony of his driver and asserted to journalists that an article in the Los Angeles Times suggested the coroner would not have ruled Clarkson's death "a homicide were it not for the sheriff."

The Dec. 10, 2003, article said: "A coroner's report on the shooting concluded that gunshot residue appeared on both of Clarkson's hands … According to the coroner's report, the medical examiner based his conclusion that the shooting had been a homicide on statements in law enforcement reports."

Donna Clarkson says of Spector, "I pray for him that he can tell the truth and save his own soul."

She says she was so deeply affected by her daughter's death that she has kept Clarkson's cell phone activated for two years -- admitting that perhaps she's been in a kind of denial for the whole time.

"I feel like she's going to come in the door any minute ... that she'll be here any moment," she said.

Donna says she still talks to her daughter. "I tell her I miss her and how proud I am of her and I love her … ask her to stay close. She'll be our big support through the trial."

Donna Clarkson has kept her daughter's Web site running for the two years since Lana's death. It can be visited at or

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