YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Bizarre Lives Bared of Star, Son Accused of Her Murder

June 07, 1987|JAN KLUNDER | Times Staff Writer

Timothy Scott Roman sat stoically in Van Nuys Superior Court last week while his attorney characterized him as "an experiment of the human race."

Baby-faced, with soft eyes and a willowy frame, Roman looked like a lost child as court officials discussed his fate during a pretrial hearing.

Roman, who is unnaturally youthful-looking at 23, stands accused of the brutal murder of his mother, former actress Susan Cabot, 59, who was clubbed to death in her Encino home Dec. 10 with a weight-lifting bar.

Although he denied any involvement and blamed the bludgeoning on a Latino burglar wearing a Ninja warrior mask, prosecutors say they have strong circumstantial evidence pointing to Roman as the killer. His attorney is now planning a psychological defense.

Extensive court documents made available last week and an interview with the attorney Saturday revealed that, by focusing on Roman's mother's fragile mental condition, her unkempt home and her authorization of controversial drugs for her son, the defense intends to show that she may have contributed to her own death.

Defense attorney Chester Leo Smith argued in documents that Roman is an emotional wreck as a result of an overprotective, disturbed mother and a severe growth deficiency that has made him dependent on strong medications with dangerous side effects.

"Mr. Roman is probably, really, an experiment of the human race," Smith said Wednesday at the courtroom hearing.

The case file, parts of which Smith unsuccessfully sought to have sealed last week, revealed that Roman and his mother lived in an exclusive hillside community in a home cluttered with debris. In court papers, Smith said the two lived in such "filth and chaos" that the conditions constituted child abuse.

The case could go to trial as early as this summer in the courtroom of Judge Richard G. Kolostian. Roman is being held without bail in County Jail.

The tale emerging about Roman's life with his mother sounds like it was scripted in Hollywood, where Susan Cabot gained moderate fame in the 1950s as a leading actress in numerous "B" movies.

Born dwarfed, Roman would have grown to only about 4 feet tall, his attorney said, but, with the aid of steroids and other drugs to stimulate growth, Roman now is 5 feet, 4 inches and weighs about 135 pounds.

"They medically added more than a foot onto him," Smith said. "When you force the size of an individual to increase, you also force brain cells to increase. What happens is that doctors are performing a balancing act.

"I think Roman is just a statistic that went bad."

Besides the steroids he continues to take today, Roman was treated for 15 years with an experimental hormone that later was discontinued when it was linked to neurological disorders in some patients, the court records show. Smith said it may be years before doctors can determine whether Roman was damaged by the hormone.

Even the medications Roman now takes periodically cause behavioral changes, Smith asserted, saying he had noticed mood swings in his client. In fact, Roman has been concerned about his medications' side effects and has taken it upon himself to try to regulate his dosages.

Fascinated with the martial arts and at one time a student of self defense, Roman has about a dozen posters of actor Bruce Lee on his bedroom walls, police photos of the crime scene show. Barbells and other weights lie on the floor.

Although Roman recently performed well in art and biochemistry courses at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, his high school math tutor recalled that, when Roman failed to take his medications, "he was virtually unable to add two-digit numbers," according to records.

Portrait of Cabot

The defense supplements its picture of Roman with a bizarre portrait of Cabot, depicting her in a way that conjures up the Norma Desmond character in the 1950 film "Sunset Boulevard," which starred Gloria Swanson in a story of a tormented, washed-up movie queen.

Once romantically linked to Jordan's King Hussein, Cabot is portrayed in court records as an aging beauty whose short-lived acting career in low-budget films of the 1950s faded long before her death.

Cabot had an "adequate" income in recent years, Smith said, as a result of heady real estate transactions and her fascination with classic cars, which she had restored for resale.

She is said to have suffered recurrent mental breakdowns and to have withdrawn into a reclusive existence in her hilltop home, which was falling into disrepair. The interior, judging from court file photographs, belies its posh setting, with its panoramic view of the San Fernando Valley.

Smith, in court papers, said the mother and son had lived alone for several years in "massive filth and decay." Photos show clothing, bags of garbage, stacks of newspapers and magazines and other items piled high and strewn about. Every room photographed shows a high degree of disarray.

Los Angeles Times Articles