Author Dominick Dunne died today at the age of 83. Mr. Dunn died in his home in New York City from bladder cancer.
Dunne was a noted author and columnist, covering the rich and famous, and the infamously incarcerated, yet I remember him most for the justice he sought for his murdered daughter, Dominique.
Dominique, 22, was murdered by a rejected lover in 1982. She broke-up John Thomas Sweeney, refused to reconcile and in her own driveway, he grabbed the 5-1″ girl by the neck, dragged her to the backyard and strangled her. Sweeney was convicted of manslaughter and served 2-1/2 years of a 6-1/2-year sentence. How can a crime like this garner a manslaughter conviction? What happened to “murder?
Bloomberg prints this interesting quote:
Sweeney “came dressed as, like, a sacristan at a Catholic seminary, and he held a Bible and he read it piously and it was all an act,” Dunne said on CNN’s “Larry King Live” in 2006. “I had never been to a trial before and it disgusted me. And the extraordinary thing is, it fooled the jury, and this man who strangled my daughter for five minutes got a slap on the wrist.”
Convicted of voluntary manslaughter, Sweeney was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison and released after 2 1/2 years. Outraged, Dunne for a time paid a private detective to follow him.
Ms. Dunne, an actress, appeared as the oldest daughter, Dana, in The Poltergeist. She appeared in the Requiem for a Hairbag segment of Hill Street Blues, and was hired for the role of Robin Maxwell for the miniseries “V.” She almost completed two full episodes before her death.
From that point on, Dominick Dunne’s work life became entwined with crime. A former filmmaker, he became a chronicler of high-profile crime, and began that career as a staff writer for Vanity Fair.
Dunne credits the O.J. trials for his celebrity:
“I had a literary following before, but because of O.J. I became a name and a public person, which I love,” Dunne told the New York Times in September 2008.
He followed every minute of the first criminal trial against O. J. Simpson. He believed that O.J. was guilty. When the second O.J. criminal trial began in 2008, Dunne covered the proceedings although he had already announced that he was in treatment for cancer.
Upon Simpson’s conviction, Dunne wrote: “I had quite a few chats with O.J. during the Las Vegas trial. I found him to be a lonely figure with a wrecked life. This is the verdict that should have come 13 years ago.”
He covered almost all of the high profile cases. He single-handedly revived the Martha Moxely murder. Dunne wrote a book about it and then a TV series came along and eventually, Michael Skakel, Ethel Kennedy’s nephew, was convicted and imprisoned.
Dunne inserted himself into every murder he could. He found a way, one way or the other to become a part of the crime, to enter the room where the murder occurred, to talk to the suspect on his own terms…whatever it took, and then he wrote a book about it. This article gives some fascinating details of these events and uses quotes from Dunne.
Mr. Dunne was more than his family and his stories. He was awarded the Bronze Star for service as a 19-year-old in World War II. He had a discipline of steel and did what is today considered almost impossible, he “drove himself up to the woods in Oregon. Living alone in a cabin, he became sober and began, at age 50, to write.” Dunne had one last book in the works when he died: Too Much Money.