Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Phil Spector: The 'Mad Genius' of Rock'n'Roll

'I Think I Just Shot Her'

Phil Spector's home
Phil Spector's home

The victim was found in the foyer of the 10-bedroom mansion at 1700 South Grandview Drive in the Los Angeles suburb of Alhambra. Known as Castle Pyrenees, the home once had been a 28-room hotel. The six-foot blonde was slumped in a chair, a single gunshot wound to her mouth. She was wearing a little black dress, black nylons, and black shoes. A leopard print purse hung from her right shoulder. Broken teeth were scattered all over the red carpeting. Two suits of armor stood nearby, as if silently watching over her.

.38 Colt revolver, 2" barrel, similar
.38 Colt revolver, 2" barrel, similar

A blue-steel .38 Colt revolver with a two-inch barrel lay on the floor under her left leg. Five live rounds were in the cylinder, a spent cartridge under the hammer. In the bathroom off the foyer, police investigators found a blood-soaked cloth on the floor and a wet hand towel on the sink. Blood was found on a door handle, on the stairway and railing, and on a man's coat hanging in an upstairs dressing room.

In the living room, candles were burning on the mantel. A partially filled brandy snifter sat on the coffee table. A soda can and a bottle of tequila were found on another table.

A search of the house yielded nine other firearms, including two additional blue-steel Colt revolvers.

DVD Cover: Barbarian Queen
DVD Cover: Barbarian Queen

The victim's name was Lana Clarkson, a down-on-her-luck actress who had appeared in numerous B-movies, most notably Barbarian Queen directed by Roger Corman and Amazon Women on the Moon. A former boyfriend characterized her as "hyper — 30 decibels loud, 90 miles a minute, always trying to get something going." Before her death Clarkson was hoping to get her acting career going again, but at the age of 40, she was having trouble landing roles. To make ends meet, she'd taken a job at the House of Blues in West Hollywood where she worked as a hostess in the Foundation Room, the club's VIP lounge, which is known for its "opium-den chic" décor. This is where she met legendary rock-and-roll producer Phil Spector, 62, in the early morning hours of February 3, 2003. Spector, the creator of the "wall of sound," a tidal wave of layered instruments and voices that became the gold standard for rock hits in the 1960s, had worked his studio magic for artists as diverse as Ronnie and the Ronettes, the Righteous Brothers, the Beatles, and the Ramones.

Spector and Clarkson left the House of Blues together that night in Spector's limo and drove to the Alhambra mansion where he lived alone. Spector and his guest went inside while the driver, Andriano Desouza, waited outside in the car. Ten minutes later, Spector came out to retrieve a brown leather briefcase that he had left in the limo. An hour after that, Desouza heard a gunshot.

Spector was then seen exiting the house through the back door with a gun in his hand. As reported by the Associated Press, according to affidavits, Spector said, "I think I just shot her."

When police arrived at 5:02 a.m., they found Spector standing over Clarkson's body with his hands jammed in his pockets. Investigators asked to see his hands, but he refused. According to police reports, he put up a struggle when they tried to arrest him and as a result used a Taser stun gun to subdue him. Though he insisted that Clarkson shot herself, he was arrested at 6:09 a.m. and later released on $1 million bond.

Police and prosecutors were left with the task of trying to figure out what happened between the B-movie queen and the notoriously eccentric rock producer inside Castle Pyrenees in the wee hours of February 3.

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