Short Story Mistaken For Confession in Slaying of Actor

December 09, 2004 (PRLEAP.COM) Entertainment News
LOS ANGELES, CA (December 9, 2004) — Fans of the late film star and teen idol Sal Mineo are outraged over what they perceive to be a written confession by the actor's true killer.

Mineo, who co-starred with film legend James Dean in "Rebel Without A Cause' and "Giant', was stabbed to death in the car port of his West Hollywood apartment in 1976.

Speculation originally rested on a gay lover's quarrel as the motive behind Mineo's slaying. After an exhaustive investigation, LAPD detectives arrested habitual offender Lionel Ray Williams for the crime in 1979, citing robbery as the motive. Although considerable doubts about Williams' involvement lingered, he was sentenced to life in prison for killing Mineo. Williams was paroled in 1990 after serving 12 years.

In 2004, L.A.-based journalist and documentary producer Rodger Jacobs wrote "I Killed Sal Mineo', a short story based on the supposition that Mineo's murderer is still at large.

Jacobs' story was written for, a website maintained by television news journalist Giselle Fernandez, and was subsequently published in a collection of short stories titled "Christopher Walken and the Tuna Fish Sandwich and Other L.A. Stories' (Lulu Publishing).

"I am forwarding this information to the police, the FBI, and Sal's family,' an enraged John Seger wrote Jacobs in an e-mail on December 4. Seger maintains, deemed the official Sal Mineo website by the Mineo family and Tom Korman, executor of the slain actor's estate.

"If this is your idea of a sick joke, or whether you are wanting attention, this is going to be investigated,' Seger continued in the first of a flurry of heated e-mails. "This makes me sick. All websites are traceable, as are e-mail addresses when it comes to crime, especially your admission of a murder.'

Seger, whose mother Vera was a first-generation cousin to James Dean, complained of receiving "a flood of letters from disturbed fans' who read the short story online and also confused fiction with fact.

"If the Mineo fans had carefully examined the page from L.A. Stories that opened in their browser, they would have noticed that it was classified as fiction,' Jacobs explained.

Initially unable to locate the disclaimer, Seger further pushed Jacobs to reinforce that the story was fiction. Jacobs cautioned Seger against taking any form of action.

"If you did not kill Sal Mineo, you should not worry,' the webmaster wrote to Jacobs. "If the police find that this is sufficient evidence they will proceed on their own behalf. As a concerned citizen, I feel it is my duty to report it.'

Seger's actions were instigated by Tom Holycross, another Mineo fan who stumbled across the short story "I Killed Sal Mineo' while performing an AOL search on the late actor, who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role of Dov Landau in "Exodus' (1960).

"Many people get emotional over Sal Mineo's death, so I guess I'm not surprised at this reaction,' Holycross responded. He realized that the story was fiction but only after he notified John Seger and the Mineo estate.

"I am so sorry that this erupted into a volcano,' Holycross apologized to Jacobs on December 5 via e-mail. "I had no idea this would happen. But it's people's emotions. It shows that 28 years later, the loss is still felt by fans and family.'

Alerted by another Mineo fan that Jacobs' story was obviously a foray into speculative fiction, Seger promptly retreated.

"I sometimes get over protective of Sal and I over reacted,' Seger explained. "I am truly sorry.'

"Speculative fiction centered around public personalities is protected free speech so long as there is nothing actionable or libelous,' Jacobs said. "Imagine Marilyn Monroe fans getting up in arms over the dozens of books and news articles that have been written about her mysterious death and implying ominous forces at work.'

Earlier this year, "I Killed Sal Mineo' was adapted into a monologue for stage presentation by L.A. actor David Lawrence, who performed the piece to acclaim at Scene Day at the prestigious Howard Fine Acting Studio in Hollywood.

"All throughout history famous people have had their lives and deaths explored via all manner of entertainment,' Lawrence said. "It is always stressful to those closest to the public figure in question to see these events dramatized.'

In November, Lawrence advanced to the finals in the Monday Monologues competition at the 4305 Village Theatre with his interpretation of "I Killed Sal Mineo.' In Lawrence's interpretation of the story it is unclear whether the monologist is indeed Mineo's killer or a man who has simply invented a role in the tragic death of a Hollywood star.

"As an actor I looked at this piece as an opportunity to explore the darker side of someone who is either deranged or does indeed carry a dark secret,' Lawrence says.

"The people who are close to Sal Mineo will have a different reaction than the public. But the very circumstances under which one of America's greatest actors died cries out for exploration.'

In a statement to John Seger, Samantha Mineo Meyers, the niece of the late actor, defended Seger's actions as those of "a kind, courageous person who isn't afraid to go to bat for someone he cares about.'

"(Jacobs) thinks that a real human's death is okay to fantasize over and even speculate over,' Meyers wrote.


Rodger Jacobs is a Los Angeles-based journalist, screenwriter, and feature documentary producer. His articles can be found in Wireless Week, Hustler, X Biz World, High Beam Research, Juxtapoz, Progressive News Digest, and a wide host of other periodicals.

Jacobs co-produced "Wadd: The Life and Times of John C. Holmes', winner of the Best Feature Documentary prize at the South by Southwest Film Festival (1999).

Other Jacobs documentary productions include "Women: First and Foremost' with Rita Moreno and Dee Wallace-Stone, "World War II: Breadlines to Boom Times' with James B. Sikking, and "Guns of the Civil War' featuring Charles Martin Smith.