James Caan was making headlines in the mid-1990s. It was not because of his roles in the hit films Misery and The Godfather, but because he was at the center of a murder probe in 1993 and the target of a restraining order issued by his girlfriend at the time. Caan’s ex-girlfriend Leesa Rowland filed a restraining order in 1994.
She also settled a physical battery lawsuit against the actor for $86,000 after accusing him of abuse. When asked about the relationship, she has always shied away from the spotlight. Rowland, emboldened by the actor’s death last month, is now speaking out for the first time.
She described how Caan choked her, blacklisted her from Hollywood, threatened to ‘hit’ on her mother, and upended her life when they split up 28 years ago. Rowland claims Caan became enraged after she questioned him about the mysterious death of their mutual friend Mark Schwartz. He was a roadie for a band who fell from the fire escape of the apartment the actor was sleeping in.
“I feel like I’m free and no longer have a threat that someone’s going to hurt me.”
In 1992, she met Caan, whom she calls Jimmy, at a friend’s house. He was 52-years-old, and she was 25. They started dating casually, going out for dinners, and spending time together at his Beverly Hills home and the Le Parc Hotel. After September 18, 1993, everything changed.
“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.”
“He was always very charming and nice. We got along great and hung out all the time.”
Rowland and Caan were in a friend’s high-rise Wilshire Corridor apartment. Instead of staying at the Le Parc, Caan had swapped places for the night in order to have more privacy to make phone calls and read scripts. Rowland stated that Schwartz left in the afternoon and returned later that night to pick her up and bring her to the Le Parc hotel so she could relax before her audition the next morning.
“I was with Jimmy and Mark the night he died.”
“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.”
“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.”
“I go into the bedroom of the suite, I go to sleep and then I wake up in the morning to homicide police.”
Rowland claims the cops took her and a mutual friend, the name of whom she has decided not to reveal, to the crime scene. “The police tell us they have James in another [police] car and that he didn’t recognize the body,” she said. Rowland also said she breathed a sigh of relief because if Caan didn’t recognize the body, it meant it was likely she didn’t know the victim. She revealed that under the sheet was the body of 25-year-old Mark Alan Schwartz from West Hollywood.
“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.”
Caan, on the other hand, claimed that Schwartz never entered the apartment and that he slept through the entire ordeal. What began as a murder probe was declared an accident after nearly ten hours of questioning. According to the police report, Schwartz fell at 4 a.m. as he attempted to get into the eighth-floor apartment balcony from an adjacent fire escape.
Rowland was always disturbed by one issue “Why did he say he didn’t recognize the body? If I could know who he is, the person I met him through should know who he is.” While she can’t tell for certain if Caan was involved or at fault, the question has always loomed in her mind. She claimed that’s when she began to feel guilty and their relationship changed. Check out the Daily Mail’s article for more details.
Rowland expressed her sadness at his death, but she now feels free. The one thing that should be highlighted is why Caan lied about not recognizing Mark’s body. To get the latest updates, keep an eye on Thirsty.
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