Actor Michael Jace's arrest in wife's killing stuns neighbors

Neighbors expressed shock over the arrest of "The Shield" actor Michael Jace on suspicion of killing his wife, April, inside their Hyde Park home Monday.

"They were the Huxtables on the block," neighbor Tonja Edwards said, referring to the fictional family in the long-running sitcom "The Cosby Show" in the 1980s and '90s.

April Jace, 40, suffered multiple gunshot wounds to her upper torso, police said.

About 8:30 p.m. Monday, police said, Michael Jace called police on his cellphone to say that he had just shot his wife to death.

Two children, both reportedly younger than 10, were inside the pink stucco home on a quiet street at the time of the shooting.

“At very least they heard the shots,” LAPD Det. Sal LaBarbera said. “It is a terrible tragedy, made all the more worse by their children being there.” 

Neither child was hurt.

By 3 a.m. Tuesday, Jace had been booked on suspicion of murdering his 40-year-wife, a well-liked financial aid counselor at Biola University, an evangelical Christian college in La Mirada.

LaBarbera said investigators searched the home in the 5400 block of Brynhurst Avenue and recovered a handgun, which will be tested to determine whether it was used in the shooting.

April Jace and her sons had been home for about 15 minutes after baseball practice before their mother was shot, detectives said.

Beforehand, neighbors reported seeing Michael Jace pull into the driveway, walk in and leave the front door ajar. A few minutes later, a neighbor heard popping sounds and took cover. 

Police said they arrived to find an unarmed Jace standing in the doorway, his wife’s body visible in a hallway.

They handcuffed the actor. Paramedics arrived soon after and pronounced his wife dead.

The veteran actor, dressed in a short-sleeve shirt, appeared to show little emotion as flashing lights from police cars reflected off his face outside the home.

LaBarbera said Monday night’s 911 calls were the first time police had been called to the home, adding that the couple had no public history of trouble.

Michael Jace had no arrest record, according to public records, but divorce papers from a previous marriage make allegations of threats and domestic violence.

Ex-wife Jennifer Bitterman alleged in a November 1997 divorce filing that Jace allegedly threatened to kill her if they went to “war over his visitation rights to their son.”

Also in the filing, a friend of Bitterman who lived with the couple informed the court that she was in the room when Jace “choked and hit” Bitterman and “slammed her against the wall while [her son] screamed in his crib next to her.” The child was 6 months old at the time.

The friend, according to court records, reported seeing at least three more incidents of violence in eight months.

The actor had been under financial strain for years, court records show.

Michael Jace filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy in March 2011, listing more than $500,000 in liabilities against $325,000 in assets, according to federal court records.

At the time he owed more than $22,000 to the government, $16,000 to credit card companies and carried two mortgages. 

Jace appeared to be keeping up with the payments until late last year, when a creditor filed a notice that he had fallen $2,800 behind on payments.