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updated: 5/21/2014 8:54 AM

Veteran actor Jace tells police he shot and killed wife

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  • Michael Jace

      Michael Jace
    Associated Press file photo

  • A police officer stands guard in front of the home of actor Michael Jace on Tuesday in Los Angeles. Jace, who played a police officer on the hit TV show "The Shield," was arrested on suspicion of homicide after his wife was found shot to death in their Los Angeles home, authorities said.

      A police officer stands guard in front of the home of actor Michael Jace on Tuesday in Los Angeles. Jace, who played a police officer on the hit TV show "The Shield," was arrested on suspicion of homicide after his wife was found shot to death in their Los Angeles home, authorities said.
    Associated Press

 
By Anthony McCartney, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Michael Jace projected the image of a doting, hands-on father and husband to neighbors, but authorities are now trying to determine what prompted the veteran actor to tell police he shot and killed his wife while his young sons were in the home.

According to police, Jace shot his wife multiple times after she returned home with their children Monday evening. He called 911 and told a police dispatcher what he did and stepped out of the home just as officers arrived to find April, his wife of nearly 11 years, dead in the hallway. The handgun, which detectives believe belonged to the actor, was recovered from the home, and the couple's sons were handed over to relatives after Jace was taken into custody.

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Jace, who played a police officer in the hit FX series "The Shield," remains in jail in lieu of $1 million bail, and investigators are expected Wednesday to continue their investigation and prepare a murder case that will likely be filed against the actor on Thursday. An autopsy may be performed on April Jace on Wednesday, and Los Angeles Police Detective Dean Vinluan said investigators will be reviewing multiple 911 calls about the shooting to help build their case.

Vinluan said there had been no reports of domestic violence at the Jaces' household, although detectives would examine whether financial or other marital problems were a motive.

The family's next-door neighbor, Shirley Harding, said she heard at least three gunshots Monday evening. It was the first time she said she heard any violence coming from the home in the modest and normally quiet Hyde Park neighborhood of Los Angeles.

"I never heard arguments," she said. "I just heard happiness over there."

Despite a career that included steady but small acting roles in films such as "Planet of the Apes," "Boogie Nights" and "Forrest Gump" and the TV series "Southland," Jace had been experiencing financial difficulties for several years. In 2011 he filed for bankruptcy protection, listing between $500,000 and $1 million in debts, including the Hyde Park home.

Jace, 51, had also had a contentious custody battle with his ex-wife, in which he was accused of being abusive to her and at times neglecting their son.

Maria de la Vega, a close friend of Jace's ex-wife Jennifer Bitterman, wrote in a court filing that she saw the actor become violent several times. In August 1997, de la Vega wrote, Jace choked Bitterman and slammed her head into a wall while their infant son was crying in a crib next to them.

In his filing, Jace wrote that he and Bitterman "were both guilty of overstepping physical boundaries."

Jace's agents at SMS Talent declined to comment and did not respond to an email requesting information on whether he had a lawyer.

April Jace was described as a schoolteacher in the bankruptcy petition and took a job in March 2013 as a financial aid counselor at Biola University, a private Christian school. Geoff Marsh, Biola's senior director of financial aid, said she had a radiant personality.

"Her love for helping students and families and her great work ethic earned the respect and love of her co-workers," he said in a written statement.

April Jace had two sons, both under the age of 10, with her actor husband, and a teenage son from a previous marriage.

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