Just weeks after his death, James Caan's ex reveals he abused her and threatened to put a hit on her MOTHER
'I feel like I'm free and no longer have a threat that someone's going to hurt me,' Leesa Rowland said on hearing about 'The Godfather' actor's death
MANHATTAN, NEW YORK: The death of James Caan has reportedly given his ex the strength to speak up against him. Over a month after his death, Leesa Rowland has opened up about the abuse and threats she endured at the hands of ‘The Godfather’ actor. Rowland has also revealed some shocking things about a friend who apparently plunged to his death.
Caan breathed his last on July 6 after suffering from health issues for years. He was 82 and now after his death, Rowland has claimed, "I feel like I'm free and no longer have a threat that someone's going to hurt me," in an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com. The 57-year-old said that initially everything was fine between her and the veteran star but things changed for the worse after their mutual friend Mark Schwartz, who was in a relationship with Ola Ray at the time, died in 1993.
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Though the probe into Schwartz’s death began as a homicide, it ended being declared an accident. Caan was also cleared of all suspicions eventually, but some unanswered questions have bothered Rowland. The actress said that Schwartz was with her and Caan the night he died. But the ‘Thief’ actor strictly warned her not to speak about it else he will kill her mother.
Rowland told the Daily Mail that she first met Caan, whom she refers to as Jimmy, in 1992 at the age of 25. The actor was 52 at the time and had already been famous in tinseltown while she was a newbie. "I didn't really know who he was when I met him. He was just Jimmy. He had a Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo belt buckle and he said he was a rodeo cowboy, which is what I thought he was at first. But of course, he wasn't. He was an actor,” she said.
Soon the two started dating and spending time with each other at his Beverly Hills home as well as inside a suite at the Le Parc Hotel. “He was always very charming and nice. We got along great and hung out all the time,” she stated but the fairy tale phase ended on September 18, 1993. Speaking with DailyMail.com, Rowland explained, "I was with Jimmy and Mark the night he died," at a friend's apartment at the Wilshire Corridor building.
She continued, “Jimmy and I were at the apartment and I had an audition the next day. Jimmy called Mark to tell him to print out my script. He printed it out, picked up pizza and brought it over to the apartment. He brings it up and we hang out with Mark for a while,” before describing him as "fun and charming." "He was 6'3 and handsome and was a roadie for The Gap Band. He wanted to be a music manager eventually,” she said.
Rowland then claimed that Schwartz left the place only to come back in the night. She said,"We were with another friend talking, laughing, looking at photo albums of him and Ola. Everything was fine and normal. He wasn't drunk like the reports said.” The ‘Discovering the It Factor within You: Developing Your Charismatic Personality’ writer said that she went to sleep but woke up “in the morning to homicide police.”
She said, "The police tell us they have James in another [police] car and that he didn't recognize the body. We arrive at the apartment and it's marked off as a crime scene. They walk us over to the scene and take the cloth off the body and it's him. I thought at first it was a gunshot, because of the gash on his head. I have never seen a dead person in my life, much less my friend. I was crying hysterically. I looked up and it seems so obvious that he fell from the balcony of the apartment.”
But since Caan had already told the cops that Schwartz did not enter the apartment and he was sleeping when he “fell”, Rowland also told the investigators, "Mark may have tried climbing the fire escape and fell. The cop wrote that down, took me for seven hours of questioning and that was it.” And, eventually, LA Detective Vic Pietrantoni in his report noted, "It appears he lost his footing and fell to his death. An autopsy was conducted which confirmed that the cause of death was related to the fall."
However, the investigation’s conclusion failed to convince Rowland, who said, “Why did he say he didn't recognize the body? If I could know who he [Caan] is, the person I met him through should know who he is. It changed our whole relationship because I was always trying to figure out what happened with Mark.”
Rowland said she even confronted the father-of-five and asked, “I don't understand why you told them you didn't recognize Mark,” and the answer she got was “Because I was being investigated for murder.”
"He never wanted to figure out what happened to him,” the ‘Slaughter Daughter’ actress said, as she went on to say, "I had feelings of guilt, thoughts that if I hadn't left the apartment or hadn't gone to sleep, he wouldn't have left. We saw each other a lot and talked about the incident quite a bit. Jimmy was nice about it in the beginning and comforting and tried to make me feel better. He never wavered that he slept through it."
After Schwartz’s death, Rowland asserted that Caan began drinking heavily and did drugs before going to rehab in 1994. She said, “A few months later the story is on the news and I joke to him, ‘Can you believe they used my hypothesis that he fell from the fire escape? It's obvious he fell from the balcony. What's that about?’ He didn't think that was funny."
"His whole demeanor changed and he said, ‘Leesa, if I ever hear that you're talking I will put a hit out on your mother.’ Then he took me by my neck with his bare hands and said I'm going to kill you. And he started punching me and strangling me and just went ballistic. Finally, he opens the door and tosses me into the hallway. All I could think of was him doing that to Mark. Is this what happened to Mark? Over the balcony? It was a flashback to Mark dead because of the way he threw me," she mentioned.
Rowland also said that after leaving Caan’s place, she went to the police and "made a police report...as life insurance. If anything happened to me I would have this." Later, women's rights attorney Gloria Allred represented her after she sued him for physical battery. The suit was settled outside the court and she received $86,000.
However, that was only the beginning of her troubles. "I went from booking a lot of TV gigs and people sending me scripts, and then it all stopped. I got no auditions, nothing. My agent only wanted me to do things talking about Jimmy, but I couldn't and didn't want to talk about it. I just wanted to do my work and I couldn't tell them what the abuse stemmed from. So I didn't talk for 30 years," she said.
Rowland told DailyMail.com, "My whole demeanor changed after that. It was a life changing event. I was always nervous. The worst part was I lost my voice. I was so afraid that someone would say I was talking about the incident even when I wasn't. I couldn't tell anyone that he threatened to kill my mother. Even now, I'm afraid to talk because I hear Jimmy yelling at me that if I speak he'll put a hit out on her, and my mother passed in 2003."
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Speaking on Caan’s death, Rowland said, "A mutual friend told me. I was saddened that he died. I really liked him at one time and I was sad that he had health issues at the end of his life and suffered a lot. But I feel like I'm free and no longer have a threat that someone's going to hurt me. I don't know if he really would've killed me or my mother but I lived with that threat," before concluding, "I feel a sense of freedom, that I don't have to worry about my sweet family. He had a long time he could've called me to apologize. Wouldn't you think he would? Especially if he was innocent. It still bothers me. Me, Mark's family, Ola - we still don't have closure on what happened to Mark."