Thursday, May 26, 2005

Spector of Doubt

LOS ANGELES - Four women who claim that Phil Spector pointed guns at them during dates will be allowed to testify when the record producer stands trial on charges of shooting dead an actress at his mansion, a judge ruled on Monday.

A terrified Spector leaves the court house after the judge's ruling

Los Angeles Superior Court judge Larry Fidler said the prosecution could call the women as part of its case against Spector, who has denied murdering an actress he picked up in a Los Angeles nightclub in February 2003. The judge gave no reason for his decision, but prosecutors had argued that the incidents involving the women were "remarkably similar" to the current case against Spector. The ruling was a setback for the reclusive Spector, who prosecutors allege has a history of gun-related violence against women and others.

Spector, 64, best known for his layered "Wall of Sound" recording technique in the 1960s, is free on $1 million bail while awaiting trial in September for the murder of Lana Clarkson at his Los Angeles area home. Spector had met the statuesque Clarkson at Hollywood's House of Blues club, where she worked as a hostess, before taking her to his hilltop mansion in Alhambra.

An autopsy report concluded that a gun was placed in the mouth of the actress and fired. Spector did not deny this, but claimed in a June 2004 Esquire magazine interview that Clarkson had died in a bizarre act of suicide, after "kissing" the gun. At the time police officials scoffed at Spector's claim, calling it "insane and completely unbelievable" before realizing that Spector meant it literally and not as a euphemism for Clarkson having oral sex with him. Meanwhile, most legal experts expected Spector to be acquitted based on that defense since it would be easy to convince a jury that any woman who sobered up to find that she'd gone home with a hideous looking freak like Spector would be suicidal.

Therefore it came as a complete surprise this afternoon when the defense signaled a change in strategy. At a press conference held outside of Los Angeles Superior Court, defense attorney Bruce Cutler announced "We have recently uncovered evidence that Ms. Clarkson may have been murdered by a man who looks - to borrow the prosecutor's term - 'remarkably similar' to my client. We intend to vigorously pursue this avenue of investigation and urge the police to do the same." To bolster his claim, Cutler displayed side-by-side photos of Spector and the suspect, who Cutler identified as Robert Underdunk Terwilliger.

Terwilliger, known as "Sideshow Bob," achieved minor celebrity status in the late 1980's as the sidekick on the "Krusty the Klown" show before being jailed for the attempted murder of Bart Simpson, a ten year old boy from Springfield (state unknown).

On the surface, Cutler's claims do appear to have some degree of legitimacy. Records show that Terwilliger had been transferred to a Los Angeles area prison in early 2002 and that he was participating in a work release program on February 3, 2003, the date of Clarkson's death. Furthermore, Cutler released this photo of Terwilliger and an unidentified man taken on the day of the murder by a security camera outside of a Quickie Mart in the vicinity of Spector's residence.

Terwilliger and 'Mr. X'

Terwilliger is currently serving 15 year prison sentence after his conviction last November on a litany of charges including impersonating a military officer, stealing the Duff blimp, extortion, threatening to detonate a nuclear bomb, kidnapping, the attempted murder of Bart Simpson (again), and stealing the Wright Brothers aircraft.

When reached for comment via phone in Springfield Prison, Terwilliger vehemently denied the accusations calling them "slanderous" and a "complete fabrication." He added that his history shows that he goes out of his way to try to kill people using the most complex, convoluted schemes possible and dismissed the idea that he would shoot someone, saying "A plan that simple is so far beneath my vast intellectual capacity that it's not even worth discussing."