Actor Michael Jace has been arrested on suspicion of fatally shooting his wife during an argument and detectives are looking into whether the couple's financial or other marital difficulties played a role in the killing.
Jace, who played a police officer in the hit FX television series The Shield, was being held on US$1 million bail and is suspected of shooting his wife multiple times in the couple's home in the quiet, modest Hyde Park neighbourhood of Los Angeles.
The couple's two sons, who are the under the age of 10, were at home at the time of shooting, although police are unsure of whether they witnessed their parents fighting or the gunfire.
The body of April Jace, 40, was found in a hallway of the home and a handgun believed to have belonged to her husband was recovered, said Los Angeles Police Detective Dean Vinluan.
"She came home with the kids and then the dispute happened and the shooting happened," Vinluan said.
Jace spoke to a 911 operator after the shooting, but it was unclear whether he called for help or the operator called the home. The actor was seen walking out of the home when officers arrived around 8.30pm and he was detained and later arrested.
"We don't know if he came out of fear or was trying to get out of there," Vinluan said.
Detectives will review multiple 911 calls that were placed after the shooting to try to confirm what happened before Jace is formally charged.
Police had not responded to the couple's home on reports of domestic violence, Vinluan said, but the actor had been under financial pressure in recent years. He declared for bankruptcy in 2011 and had been delinquent on payments as recently as December.
Calls seeking comment from Jace's agent and manager were not immediately returned.
Jace, 51, is best known for his role as LAPD Officer Julien Lowe in the TV series The Shield. He also appeared on the show Southland and had small roles in the movies Planet of the Apes, Boogie Nights and Forrest Gump.
Vinluan said the couple's sons are now with family.
His wife had worked as a financial aid counselor at Biola University, a private Christian school, since March 2013.
"April's radiant personality brought great energy to the Financial Aid Office," Geoff Marsh, senior director of financial aid wrote in a statement. "Her love for helping students and families and her great work ethic earned the respect and love of her co-workers. Her smiling face and helpful spirit will be missed by all."
Bankruptcy filings in 2011 stated that she had worked as a school teacher for the previous 10 years.
Michael Jace's bankruptcy filing listed debts between $500,000 and $1 million. Much of the debt appeared to be related to his home, with an additional $22,000 owed in state and federal income taxes. More than $20,000 of his tax delinquency was owed to the state of California for the year 2008.
In a statement of his assets, Michael Jace checked off a box indicating he didn't own any firearms. There are no records of any criminal cases involving Michael Jace in Los Angeles.
Jace had agreed to a payment plan in the bankruptcy filing but by November 2013 had fallen behind by nearly $2000. A trustee sought to dismiss the case over the late payments, but that petition was withdrawn on December 24, 2013, records show.
The Shield ended its seven-season run in 2008. Jace appeared in all but one episode, according to the Internet Movie Database site, IMDB.com.
Jace consistently found work, but remained mostly a bit player.
"He's one of those people whose faces you'd recognise but you don't know their names," said veteran casting director Sheila Manning. "He's a solid actor. Nothing big, but he's a working actor."
"He's a person that makes a living as an actor, not an easy thing to do and actually very impressive," she said, adding, "but he's not a star".
Coroner's Assistant Chief Ed Winter said April Jace's body had been removed from the home and an autopsy would not be performed until Wednesday at the earliest.
BIOGRAPHICAL FACTS ON ARRESTED ACTOR MICHAEL JACE:
NAME: Michael Jace
AGE: 51. Born July 13, 1962, in Paterson, New Jersey.
HOME: Los Angeles.
FAMILY: Wife, April, age 40, killed Monday night at the home they share with their children in the Hyde Park neighborhood. Public records show she has taught public school for the past 10 years.
CAREER: Jace's most prominent role by far was on the FX cable series The Shield. He played Officer Julien Lowe on all seven seasons of the dark police drama from 2002 to 2008. Most recently he had recurring role on another cable cop series, TNT's Southland, appearing in four episodes from 2009 to 2013. Before The Shield he had a handful of small film roles in movies including Forrest Gump in 1994, Boogie Nights in 1997, and Planet of the Apes in 2001.
ARREST: Jace was arrested on suspicion of killing his wife Monday night at their home. He was being held in a Los Angeles County jail.
LEGAL HISTORY: Jace has no previous criminal record. Public records show he is in the middle of bankruptcy proceedings.