Feb. 1976. Things were finally looking up for actor Sal Mineo. After years of episodic television roles in guest parts and dinner theater, he had two rewarding projects set up. One was to direct a feature film for MGM titled “Caffery”. Two was his continuing role as Vito in “P.S. Your Cat is Dead:. He’d received rave reviews in San Francisco. The play was moving to the Westwood Playhouse, starting Feb. 25.
Feb. 12. Following rehearsals with co-star Keir Dullea, Sal returned home to his small apartment on 8569 Holloway Drive in West Hollywood.
9:30 p.m. Parking his rental car in one of the car ports, Sal was carrying a clipboard of notes for the play and a packet of Hostess Cupcakes for dinner. It was a short walk to his front door if he had made it. In the dark alley to the right of the entrance were some trash cans. Hiding behind them was Lionel Ray Williams, 19. According to a witness, Sal began to enter, then stepped back, shouting “No, no!” The screaming startled Williams, who reached out and plunged a 7 inch hunting knife into Mineo’s chest. Sal screamed, “Oh, my God, help me, please somebody help me!” Other witnesses saw Williams run off, speeding away in a small yellow car with the headlights off.
9:45 p.m. As Sal Mineo lay dying, a bystander tried mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to no avail. He is pronounced dead by paramedics.
Returning home, Williams’s wife Theresa saw him covered with blood. “I just stabbed somebody,” he said. Watching the evening news, Sal Mineo’s picture appeared. “That’s the dude I stabbed,” he told his wife.
For two years, police falsely assumed Mineo was killed by an angry gay boyfriend and abandoned the case.
Jan. 1978. Williams is in prison for check forgery when he is overheard bragging about “That honkey actor I killed” by a sheriff’s deputy.
The Tattoo. Lionel Williams stupidly put a tattoo of a knife on his arm. Police commented that it looked like the knife used in Mineo’s murder. “It looks nothing like the knife!” Williams proclaimed. Only the murderer would know that.
In court, evidence revealed the murderer had committed a series of muggings in the same area. The victims identified Williams as the mugger. Lionel Williams is charged with second degree murder and found guilty. He is jailed for fourteen years and then returned to prison for multiple offenses.
Text © 2021 – ERN