Dominick Dunne began writing and reporting on cr*ime after his daughter, Dominique, was murd*ered in 1982. Dunne’s job entailed investigating the misdeeds of celebrities and the wealthy and powerful, particularly in the Los Angeles area. Dunne covered well-known trials such as the Menendez brothers’ and O.J. Simpson’s, providing the audience with a realistic account of events that are frequently unheard of in the media. (Salute, Mr. Dunne) Power, Privilege, and Justice was a 1990s TV show hosted by Dominick Dunne that provided a first-hand look at some of the cases he devoted his life to covering as a cri*me writer for Los Angeles newspapers and Vanity Fair magazine.
The Mur*der of Dominique Dunne
Dominique was a 23-year-old actress who appeared on the show Fame and, more importantly, played a significant role in the recently released Poltergeist film. She also recently started dating a man named John Sweeney, who appeared to be a little more in love with the relationship than usual.
Sweeney assaulted a man in a bar one evening after he simply commented to the actress on a line from the film Poltergeist. Dunne was battered and bruised so badly that she had to miss tapings of Hill Street Blues, where she was a regular. Dominick ended their relationship in late September 1982 due to other unwelcoming behaviors. Friends said Dunne was terrified of the man, especially in the weeks leading up to the split.
He’s Obsessed With Me
Sweeney left the West Hollywood home she shared with Dunne. “He’s not in love with me, Dad,” she later explained to her father. He’s crazy about me. It’s driving me insane.”
In the Vanity Fair piece he wrote, “When the telephone in my New York apartment woke me up at five o’clock in the morning on October 31, 1982, I sensed as I reached for the receiver that disaster loomed.”
Sweeney strangled Dunne outside the West Hollywood home they shared, and she was now in a coma, fighting for her life. Another actor, David Packer, was in the house with Dunne the night before (October 30), when Sweeney approached. He called the cops, but it was too late because Sweeney had already attacked Dunne. The man was so terrified by the attack that he called a friend and left a message saying, “If I die tonight, it will be by John Sweeney.”
His Dyi*ng Daughter
While Dominick was still alive, his former wife and children arrived at the hospital. He later wrote about seeing his daughter near death in the hospital bed:
“At first, I didn’t realize who was on the bed was Dominique. There were tubes all over her, and the life-support system made her breathe in and out with a grotesque jerking movement that seemed to mock life. Her eyes were open and massively enlarged, staring up at the ceiling. Her lovely hair had been shaved. To relieve the pressure on her brain, a large bolt had been screwed into her skull. Her neck was purpled and swollen, and the marks of the man who had strangled her were clearly visible on it. It was nearly impossible to look at her without looking away.”
On the night of the incident, John Thomas Sweeney was arrested. Sweeney told police when they arrived at her house, “I ki*lled my girlfriend and tried to ki*ll myself.”
Dominick’s life support was turned off on November 4, 1982, and her internal organs were donated.
Sweeney Pleads Guilty
Sweeney pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter after reaching a plea agreement. He testified that he and Dunne argued that evening, but he couldn’t remember what happened after that, only that he was on top of her with his hands around her neck. Sweeney was imprisoned for three and a half years.