The big stars you see in your favorite movies and TV shows all seem to be living a truly charmed life. Not only are they famous, but they seem to have all of the luxuries that their wealth and prestige allows. However, appearances can be deceiving—and that goes double in Hollywood.
See, sometimes even the brightest smile can hide a whole life story marred by senseless tragedy. Dylan McDermott knows that well. Looking at the award-winning actor, no one would guess that he’s actually haunted by a crime that took place more than 40 years ago…
Actor Dylan McDermott might be a household name, but that wasn’t always the case. Once he was just a little boy growing up in a troubled home. But instead of focusing on his dark past, Dylan put his heart and soul into his dream of becoming an actor.
Dylan was born in the quiet town of Waterbury, Connecticut, on October 26, 1961. Like so many other youngsters growing up, he saw his idols on the big screen and had dreams of following in their footsteps and becoming a famous movie star.
When Dylan was 15, that dream finally started to come true. His parents split when he was young, and his father, Richard, married the playwright Eve Ensler, who was known for her play The Vagina Monologues. She began scripting roles for the teenager—then known as Mark—in her own original productions.
Even though she was only a few years older than Dylan, Eve happily adopted him when she married his father. Though the couple would eventually divorce, Dylan and Eve were so close that, when she miscarried a son, he took on the name “Dylan,” which Eve had planned to give to her unborn child.
Eve’s support of her adoptive son helped him thrive. He scored a major coup appearing in the film Twister in 1989, and in 1999 he won a Golden Globe Award for his appearance in the popular TV series The Practice. But none of these successes could erase the memories of his dark past…
Before Dylan moved in with his father, he’d lived with his mother, Diane. Diane was just 15 when he was born, and Richard was two years older. After Richard left her, Diane moved into a house with John Sponza, a well-established figure in local organized crime.
From a very young age, John had a criminal bent. He was arrested for the first time when he was 15, and he was rumored to have once shot a man who crossed him in the face. But because his father was a police officer, John managed to avoid prosecution.
Life with John was not easy for Dylan. The man regularly hurled verbal abuse his way and terrorized his mother, both emotionally and with physical abuse. Diane was simply too frightened to take her son and leave.
Diane tried to comfort Dylan and keep him safe from John. When the violence continued to escalate, Diane threatened him, saying that her ex-husband—Dylan’s father—had spent time in jail and wouldn’t mind putting John in his place.
On February 9, 1967, John told Dylan—who was just five years old—to go outside in the frigid weather. Dylan wasn’t wearing a warm coat, but he was scared, so he did as he was told. Once he was outside, he heard a sound that he would never forget: a gunshot.
Even though Dylan saw his mother removed from the house on a stretcher and put into an ambulance, he didn’t understand that she was dead. His grandmother kept the truth from him and his younger sister for over a year.
While Dylan might not have known the truth, the police were already investigating and they thought John’s story was suspicious. John originally claimed that Diane touched the pistol he was cleaning and that it went off, killing her accidentally in the kitchen.
Then John’s story began to change. He claimed that Diane took his gun and went into the garage deliberately to take her own life. However, the forensics team said that the point of entry for the bullet proved that couldn’t have been the case…
However, in spite of their suspicions, no charges were ever filed against John. For more than four decades, Diane’s death was recorded as having been the result of an accidental shooting.
For the next 40 years, Dylan worked hard to make his Hollywood dreams come true. After being raised by his grandmother, he finally reconnected with his father and, in turn, with Eve. But he never forgot about his mother…
In order to survive and thrive in Hollywood, Dylan had to push down the memories of losing his mother so violently. However, in 2011, he finally felt ready to confront these tragic memories.
Dylan got in touch with authorities in his old hometown and told them he still had questions about his mother’s death. Three detectives agreed to reopen the cold case; that was when they quickly discovered that something just wasn’t right…
The investigators learned that the original case files were missing. They wanted to interview John again, but they couldn’t—in 1972, he’d been murdered and his body was left in the trunk of a car.
Dylan and the investigators weren’t about to let the case go unsolved, however. The police conducted more interviews and scoured old press reports from the time of the murder. Armed with new information, they were able to finally give Dylan and his family peace for the first time: they determined that John, indeed, killed Diane.
Of course, John would never face a trial for his actions. But the fact that the case was solved—and that John received his own sort of karmic punishment—was the closure that Dylan needed to help him return to his life as a happily married father and actor.
Dylan McDermott’s life sounds like it could be the plot of one of his movies. Thankfully, this is one feature that does have a very happy ending.
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