“The Shield” actor Michael Jace once threatened to kill his first wife if she “went to war” over visitation rights for their son, according to reports.
Jace’s simmering penchant for violence — which exploded in deadly gunfire in Los Angeles Monday night when he allegedly shot his current wife, April — was laid out in court records generated during a bitter divorce from his first wife, Jennifer Bitterman.
A friend of his ex told the court an out-of-control Jace, best known for playing a sexually conflicted cop on the long-running FX series, choked his wife and slammed her against a wall as then-6-month-old Jordan screamed in his nearby crib.
“Seeing the extent of his anger was one of the most terrifying things I have ever seen,” she said, according to court records.
But Jace’s doomed wife testified more than a decade ago that her then-fiancé was a good provider for Jordan and called Bitterman a bad mother. At the time, she relayed the boy’s chilling concerns for his mom.
“Usually at bedtime, (Jordan) prays for his mom and asks God to protect her while he’s not there with her,” she told the Los Angeles divorce court, according to the records obtained by TMZ.com.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Jace threatened to kill Bitterman if she fought for visitation rights.
April bore the brunt of Jace’s fury about 8:30 p.m. Monday. About 15 minutes after she returned home with their two sons from baseball practice, Jace allegedly shot her multiple times. They had argued over money, police said.
“At the very least, (the kids) heard the shots,” LAPD Detective Sal LaBarbera told the Los Angeles Times.
It’s not clear where Jace, 51, got the gun. On a statement of the actor’s assets, he checked a box indicating he didn’t own a firearm.
“This is more than a shock,” the slain woman’s big brother, Carlo Laune, told the Daily News. “It’s out of this world.”
Laune, a 44-year-old Marine, said he had no inkling Jace and his sister were at odds.
“I was on two combat deployments with the Marine Corps and she wrote to me like clockwork,” he said. “She knew what dedication was. She knew what love was.”
Jace reportedly confessed to the murder after making a damning 911 call for help. “I shot my wife,” he reportedly told the operator, according to TMZ.com.
Jace stayed on the line and was standing in the doorway when cops arrived and found his 40-year-old wife’s body sprawled in a hallway. While Jace was hauled off to jail, the couples’ two young sons — both of whom are under 10 — were turned over to their maternal grandmother.
The suspected killer was booked on suspicion of homicide and ordered held on $1 million bail. It’s not clear he’ll be able to raise the money. The Paterson, N.J.-born actor filed for bankruptcy in 2011 and listed debts of $500,000 to $1 million — most of it owed on his home in the Hyde Park section, The Associated Press reported.
Jace also owed more than $22,000 in income taxes, and still owed the state of California more than $20,000 in back taxes for 2008. As part of the bankruptcy, Jace agreed to a repayment plan, but by last November he had already fallen $2,000 behind, according to the AP.
Jace and his wife were married for 10 years and her Facebook page has pictures of the couple in happier days.
April worked in the financial aid office at Biola University, a private Christian college in L.A. She also had a grown son from an earlier relationship.