James Caan’s ex-girlfriend claims he threatened to kill her mother and abused her just weeks before his death
After learning of the actor’s death from The Godfather, Leesa Rowland said, “I feel free and I’m no longer in danger of someone hurting me.”
Manhattan, New York:
James Caan’s death has been said to have given his ex-girlfriend the confidence to speak out against him. Leesa Rowland has opened up about the harassment and threats she received from the ‘The Godfather’ actor more than a month after his death. Rowland has also made some startling revelations about a friend who allegedly fell to his death.
Caan died on July 6 after years of struggling with his health. In an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com, Rowland said of the 82-year-old man after his death: “I feel free and no longer in danger of anyone going to hurt me.” The 57-year-old claimed that while their relationship began on friendship , however, things had taken a turn for the worst after the death of their mutual friend Mark Schwartz, who was dating Ola Ray at the time, in 1993.
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Although Schwartz’s death was initially investigated as a homicide, it was ultimately determined to be an accident. Caan was later cleared of all charges as well, although Rowland was troubled by some unresolved issues. The actress revealed that Schwartz was with her and Caan the night of his death. But the ‘Thief’ actor urged her not to talk about it or he would kill her mother.
According to Rowland, who goes by the name Jimmy, she first met Caan in 1992 when she was 25 years old. The then 52-year-old actress was already a household name in Hollywood from her early days. “When I first met him, I didn’t really know who he was. Jimmy was everything he was. He claimed to be a rodeo cowboy, which I initially suspected, because he wore a belt buckle from the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. But of course he wasn’t. She said he was an actor.
Soon after, the two became engaged and began spending time together at his Beverly Hills home and a suite at the Le Parc Hotel. He was consistently charming and friendly. The fairy tale phase ended on September 18, 1993, although she claimed they hit it off and hung out frequently. Rowland told DailyMail.com that she was at a friend’s flat in the Wilshire Corridor building “the night he died,” adding: “I was with Jimmy and Mark.”
Jimmy and I were at the apartment because I had to audition the next day, she said. Jimmy called Mark and asked him to print my script. He took it home, printed it out, ordered pizza and delivered it to the apartment. He brings it up, and after spending some time with Mark, calls him “pleasant and charming.” He was a roadie for The Gap Band and was 6ft 3 tall with a gorgeous face. After all, he wanted to control the music,” she explained.
Schwartz then left the area before returning later that evening, according to Rowland. She recalls: “We chatted, laughed and looked at photo albums of him and Ola with another friend. It was ok and typical. He wasn’t drunk like the newspapers said. According to the author of “Discovering the It Factor Within You: Developing Your Charismatic Personality,” she went to sleep but “woke up in the morning to murder cops.”
Police claim to have James in another [police] car and that he did not recognize the body, said the woman. When we reach the apartment, it’s marked as a crime scene. He’s the body when they remove the sheet from it and lead us to the crime scene. Because of the head wound, I initially thought it was a gunshot. In my whole life I’ve never seen a dead man, let alone my boyfriend. I sobbed uncontrollably. I raised my eyes and it looks so clear that he had fallen off the apartment balcony.
Rowland further suggested to detectives that Mark “may have tried to climb the fire escape and fell” because Caan had already informed police that Schwartz had not entered the apartment and was asleep when he “fell.” The officer noticed that and then took me along for a seven-hour interrogation. He eventually lost his balance and fell to his death, LA Detective Vic Pietrantoni wrote in his report. An autopsy determined that the fall was the cause of death.
Rowland, who asked why the man said he didn’t recognize the deceased, was unconvinced by the inquest’s findings. The person I met Caan through should know who he is if I am to know who he is. Our entire relationship was affected because I was constantly trying to understand what happened to Mark.
The ‘Slaughter Daughter’ actress continued: “I felt guilty and thought that if I hadn’t left the apartment or hadn’t fallen asleep, he wouldn’t have gone. He never wanted to find out what happened to him. We talked a lot about the incident and saw each other often. Jimmy initially treated the situation kindly, comforting me and trying to improve my mood. He insisted on sleeping it off.
Rowland claimed Caan began abusing drugs and alcohol after Schwartz’s death before seeking treatment in 1994. “A few months later, the news is covering the incident, and I jokingly ask him, ‘Can you believe they used my theory that he fell out of the fire? Escape?” she recalled. It’s clear he fell off the balcony. What’s going on?” He didn’t find that funny at all.
“His whole mood changed and he threatened to kill your mother if he ever caught you talking, Leesa. He then grabbed my neck with his bare hands and threatened to murder me. Then he started hitting me, choking me and just going crazy. Finally the door opens and he throws me into the hallway. I couldn’t stop imagining him torturing Mark. Did Mark experience this? About the balcony? It was a flashback of Mark getting killed as a result of the way he threw me, she said.
Rowland added that she went to the police and “prepared a police report … as life insurance” after leaving Caan’s home. I would have if anything happened to me. After she filed a lawsuit against him for assault, Gloria Allred, a women’s rights attorney, represented her. She won $86,000 in an out-of-court settlement.
However, their problems didn’t really start there. “I used to get a lot of TV bookings and people would offer me scripts, but then it all stopped. I received zero audition offers. I couldn’t and didn’t want to talk about Jimmy, although my agent just wanted me to talk about him. I couldn’t explain to them where the abuse came from as I just wanted to do my job. That’s why I’ve been silent for thirty years,” she added.
According to Rowland, “My whole personality changed after that.” DailyMail.com It was a pivotal moment in my life. I was always afraid. The worst part was that I couldn’t speak. I was so worried that someone would infer that I was talking about the incident when I wasn’t. He threatened to kill my mother, but I couldn’t notify anyone. Even now I hesitate to speak because I can still hear Jimmy screaming that if I do it he will hit my mother – my mother died in 2003.