Dylan McDermott experienced a real-life American horror story as a child, police in his hometown of Waterbury, Conn., say.
The Associated Press reports that Waterbury police have determined that "The Practice" actor's mother, Diane McDermott, was murdered by her boyfriend John Sponza in February 1967, when the actor was just five years old.
After reopening the investigation into McDermott's death last year, police said that they had enough evidence to charge Sponza with murder.
Sponza, who according to police had ties to organized crime, was shot to death in 1972. Sponza's body was found in a car trunk in the parking lot of a Waltham, Mass., grocery store.
McDermott's death was initially ruled an accident, after Sponza told police that she had inadvertently shot herself when she handled a gun that he had been cleaning. However, after the actor approached the police with questions, they reopened the investigation and determined that the gun found near her body was too small a caliber to have been the weapon that killed her. Police also determined that the gun had been pressed to the back of McDermott's head.
Waterbury police superintendent Michael Gugliotti admitted that the first investigation had been lacking.
"What troubled me was that there was very little follow-up other than the statement Sponza had given to police," he said.
Gugliotti added that witnesses — including McDermott — recalled that the couple had a violent relationship, despite Sponza's characterization.
"Sponza is telling the police that night that he very rarely, if ever, had arguments, yet everyone we spoke to, including Dylan, who was only 5 at the time, remembered very violent, vicious arguments," Gugliotti said. "Dylan vividly recalls the amount of times, not only flashing the gun, but pointing it at the kid, saying, 'Shut up and get out of here.' He's still probably traumatized by that."