February 18, 2014
To die on one’s 50th birthday has to be some sort of a complete circle, even though the death was not natural, but by manslaughter and the weapon being the other driver’s truck that was drifting between the two lanes on Topanga Canyon Bouvelard that night. My memory was only waiting for my dad to come home to watch “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.” We always watched that show together, which at the time, came on at 11 PM, Monday through Friday. When he didn’t show up around 11, I remember hearing a siren coming from the direction of the highway, because normally it was deadly silent in the canyon.
As he was driving towards home that evening, around the sharp corner on Topanga Canyon Blvd, he came upon a truck all of a sudden, that was slowly moving between the two lanes without its headlights on. My dad hit the truck directly which didn’t cause any physical harm to the other driver, but left my father unconscious and dying. The driver of the truck, left his vehicle to run off on foot from the road carnage. Oddly enough, Randy Mantooth an actor who played a Fireman/Paramedic in the 1970s medical TV series “Emergency!” was driving right behind my father’s car when he smashed into the truck. He went after the other driver, and held him at bay till the police came and arrested him. If my dad didn’t hit the truck first, Mantooth would have hit him directly.
After sentencing in a Malibu court, a sheriff and the d.i. in the case pulled me aside outside the court room to give me an advice that I should hire someone to take care of this person. The District Attorney in Malibu told me that someone should arrange a beating for the man who killed my dad, because something was not right in the criminal case against the defendant.
The story becomes murky during the trial, which the defendant, Spike, his nickname given to him by his friends, was sentenced to six months in jail, but was eventually released within three months. It was brought up that we could sue him for damage, but he transferred his property and income to his father. I think at the time I received bad legal advice, but nevertheless I’m not one to look back in bitterness. On the other hand, Spike did have a police record before the ‘accident’ and eventually, after being released from prison, caused another car accident where the other driver became crippled. Spike was generally known in the drug culture that was Topanga because he was the dealer for the locals there. The whole idyllic Topanga world became something else for me. To this very day, I refuse to go there for any reason.
At the time, the shocking thing was how the d.a. took this case at heart. He was quite indignant, and up to this point it was a trial by numbers. I was called up as a witness, but I never had to testify due to the court case keep getting cancelled or postponed. I felt like a piece of torn sponge trapped in the gravity pull of the waves hitting the beach. I just keep getting notices to appear in court and then for some mysterious reason they were consistently postponed. The main reason why I was called in, was not because I was the son of the victim, but the fact that my father was killed in my car. Which by the way, was totally destroyed by the impact. He borrowed my car, because I think the rationale at the time was, that his truck was low on gas that evening.
A word of advice is to always hire a good lawyer. The family of the guy who killed my father hired the attorney Robert Shapiro, who soon afterwards became famous for handling famous clients, for instance O.J. Simpson and other sport figure greats. Shapiro is also known to collect signed boxing gloves from famous boxers like Muhammad Ali, who by coincidence my dad was a huge fan as well.
I never knew what became of Spike, but Randy Mantooth, as well as still being an actor, became an advocate for firefighters and paramedics, and even though we never met, I hold him in the highest esteem.