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Police Release 911 Tape in Phil Hartman Case

Crime: Man told dispatcher Brynn Hartman had confessed to the shooting hours earlier, but he hadn't believed her.

June 03, 1998|ANN W. O'NEILL and ANDREW BLANKSTEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The voice of stuntman Ron Douglas was shaky as he summoned police last week to the Encino home of longtime friend Brynn Hartman, who had shot her famous husband to death a few hours earlier.

"Yeah, hi . . . um . . . I think there's been a shooting here," Douglas said in a low monotone. The facts came one after the other: One victim, shot in the head, the shooter was the wife.

But not once did Douglas reveal the identity of the man he had just seen lying dead in bed--"NewsRadio" sitcom star Phil Hartman, who also was known for his impersonations on "Saturday Night Live."

The dispatcher then asked questions that have lingered in the days since the murder-suicide of an outwardly happy and successful Hollywood couple. "So, was this on purpose? Or was this an accident? Or what, sir? Do you know what happened?"

"I have no idea," the 44-year-old Douglas said, twice. "She came to my house and she was drunk. She said she had killed her husband and I didn't believe her."

He told police he had the gun in his hand.

As officers arrived, shortly before 6:30 a.m., Brynn Hartman, 40, who had barricaded herself in the master bedroom with her husband's body, ended her life with a single shot to the head, Los Angeles police said.

At a news conference late Tuesday, police released the 911 tape and identified Douglas as the man to whom Brynn Hartman confessed shooting her husband. Cmdr. David Kalish said Douglas told detectives that she appeared intoxicated and was making "bizarre" statements when she arrived at his home in Studio City between 3 and 3:30 a.m.

Police also revealed that she had called one other, unidentified person with the same confession. That call apparently was made from a cell phone while she was returning to her home from Douglas' house.

Douglas sped away from his home Tuesday evening in a black Lincoln Continental without talking with reporters who had gathered outside. Neighbors identified him and said he worked as a stunt coordinator.

Kalish said police have not determined a motive. They consider Douglas a witness and not a suspect, he added.

Meanwhile, court papers in Los Angeles Superior Court show that Phil Hartman, 49, had intended to leave everything to the woman who killed him.

The court documents stated the value of the couple's property at $630,000--most of it the equity in their $1 million Encino home. Because both parents are now deceased, the couple's estates pass on to their children--Sean Edward, 9, and Birgen Anika, 6.

The papers, drawn up in March 1996, indicate that the children would start to receive their inheritance when they graduated from college or reached age 25.

If, as some reports have indicated, the marriage was troubled to the point that Phil Hartman was considering leaving, that was not reflected in his will. He named his wife as executor, beneficiary and trustee for their children.

Brynn Hartman's sister, Katherine K. Wright, of Eau Claire, Wis., was designated the couple's first choice as guardian of their children, and they left her $50,000 for her service. The wills also state that Wright and her husband can tap into the children's trust to buy a larger home and hire help while raising them.

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