Hollywood actor Michael Jace had it all - good looks, a beautiful wife, a huge house in LA...and a jealous temper.
When the police got there, they found him waiting. Standing across the doorway to his family home.
He’d already told them what he’d done when he’d called the emergency services just a few minutes before.
‘I shot her,’ he’d said on the phone…
Now, they were on the scene, the police officers recognised the man who’d called them and confessed to murder.
He was an actor. Played the part of Julien in a crime drama called The Shield…a tough-talking police officer on an anti-gang mission.
And come to think of it, hadn’t he been in something else?
A TV drama about Mike Tyson, Star Trek: Deep Space 9, ER, Law&Order…even Hollywood blockbusters Boogie Nights and Forrest Gump.
He was well respected in his profession. And he’d done well for himself, lived in a large house in Hyde Park, a residential area of Los Angeles. It was covered in ornate, pink stucco work, was set back from the road and surrounded by trees.
But now, the police officers pushed past Michael Jace and made their way inside his expensive, pink stucco house.
They found her immediately. In the hallway. Her body shattered from the impact of three bullets.
And then, they heard it. The whimpering of children upstairs.
Michael and April’s two little boys, 9 and 7.
They hadn’t been harmed. But they’d seen the whole thing.
Witnessed their father shooting their mother dead. Firing at her while her back was turned.
Michael and April had married 11 years earlier, in 2003.
And for a while, they’d been happy.
She was a financial-aid worker for a local university.
Her career couldn’t have been more different from Michael’s glamorous one in Hollywood.
But they were determined to make it work.
For Michael, it was a second chance.
He’d been married once before. But that marriage had ended in front of a Los Angeles divorce court.
The divorce court had heard how Michael had been violent towards his first wife, how he’d grabbed her round the throat during a row. And how he’d threatened to kill her.
This time, though, he promised it would be different.
Except, it wasn’t.
When Michael and April had been married eight years, they hit money trouble.
Michael Jace was in debt to the tune of $500,000. Despite his high profile, his annual income was roughly $80,000.
He’d filed for bankruptcy.
At first, his lawyers had helped him restructure his finances and reduced the mortgage on his pink stucco house.
But there was still $411,000 owing on it. And by 2014, it looked like the family home was about to be repossessed.
Financial worries had taken their toll.
In that same year, April asked for a divorce.
Michael hadn’t taken it well.
Why would a financial-aid worker want to divorce him, a handsome, well-known actor?
She must have been having an affair – that’s the only reason Michael could think she might want to leave him.
And so, on the evening of 22 May 2014, he’d shot her.
She’d just got in from collecting the boys from baseball practice.
First, he’d shot her twice in the legs.
Next, he’d shot her in the back.
Then, he’d called the police and confessed.
April Jace was pronounced dead at the scene. Michael Jace was arrested and taken into police custody.
And their poor sons handed first to Social Services, and then driven to stay with a relative.
A police officer described their state as ‘distraught’.
When their dad had pulled that trigger three times, he’d betrayed them three times.
The man they should have trusted above all others had torn their family apart.
Two years later, in 2016, Michael Jace stood trial for his wife’s murder.
He’d been charged with first-degree murder. But he’d pleaded not guilty. Instead, he claimed he hadn’t meant to kill April. He argued it was a case of second-degree murder, which carried a less severe sentence.
That afternoon, he’d been so upset about April’s affair he’d decided to kill himself. He’d got out his gun.
But then April had come home. Michael decided to teach her a lesson, punish her for the pain she’d caused him by shooting her in the legs.
He’d killed her by mistake.
And as for killing himself, in the end he hadn’t been able to go through with it.
But there was no proof of Michael’s claims that April had been having an affair.
And the evidence given by Michael’s oldest son was quite different.
The little boy described for the court what had happened.
Michael had been waiting behind the front door for them to get back from baseball practice.
He’d shot twice at April’s legs. Because she’d loved running.
Michael had paused before shooting a third time.
‘If you like running, then run to heaven,’ he’d said.
And then he’d fired into her back…the shot that had killed her.
Didn’t that prove he’d wanted to kill her, that it hadn’t been a mistake?
When the jury returned their verdict, they found in Michael’s favour. He was guilty. Not of murder in the first, but murder in the second.
He’d get the lighter sentence he so desperately wanted – 40 years behind bars.
‘I am profoundly sorry for the pain I’ve caused,’ Michael said.
But for the famous actor who killed the mother of his sons, the reality of that 40-year sentence is harsh.
In a fit of anger, he killed his wife. He killed his sons’ mother.
Forty years in a cell with nothing but your conscience for company is a very long time indeed.
* Michael and April’s children now live permanently with relatives. ‘They were not hurt physically, but obviously emotions run high,’ said a detective working on the case. It is unknown what contact they have with their dad. If any.