TV actress testifies in case against actor Heard 'Homicide's' Leo accuses son's father of harassment

March 20, 1997|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,SUN STAFF

"Homicide: Life on the Street" actress Melissa Leo took the witness stand in a Baltimore courtroom yesterday to play a very different role -- as a victim of harassment by movie actor John Heard, the father of her 9-year-old son.

Heard, known for his role as Macaulay Culkin's father in "Home Alone," is being tried in Baltimore District Court on charges of telephone misuse and harassment in incidents alleged by Leo, 36, and her live-in boyfriend, John A. E. Russell. Heard also is accused of assaulting Russell.

In about an hour of testimony, Leo, by turns angry and tearful, described what she characterized as life "in a war zone" created by Heard, 51, during five months last year as a custody battle between the two escalated in tension.

"I have not been able to focus at work," said Leo, who plays a tough detective on the show. "I have been in tears on the telephone with attorneys. During this entire season I have been extremely distracted by this behavior going on."

She added: "It's been killing me. I've wanted two things in my life -- to be an actor and to be a mom."

Heard's lawyer told District Judge Barbara B. Waxman that the case is about Heard wanting to see his son and Leo hoping to prevent it. Shortly before Leo filed charges against Heard, a New York judge told her she was considering granting Heard more liberal visitation with his son.

"It was very clear Ms. Leo did not want this to occur," said Heard's attorney, David B. Irwin.

Heard and Leo had a relationship between 1986 and 1988, during which their son, John Matthew, called Jack, was born. They did not marry. The New York judge awarded custody of the boy to Leo in 1994, allowing Heard to see him every other weekend. Her order said Heard was not to visit the boy at school.

But Leo testified that Heard called her Fells Point home at all hours, wanting to speak to his son and leaving "diatribes" attacking her on the answering machine. Tapes of some of those calls are to be played this afternoon when Heard's trial resumes.

Leo said she didn't let Heard talk to the boy on the phone because she felt Heard was "manipulating" the child. Heard also left postcards and magazines for his son at her house; and during two days in November, he parked across the street from the boy's Roland Park school, once looking at the school with binoculars.

M. Bradley Rogers Jr., headmaster of the Odyssey School, said Heard called him repeatedly, asking about Jack's schoolwork and wanting to be sent information about school activities. Rogers said he told Heard several times not to visit the school.

Russell testified that on the second day Heard was outside the school, Heard struck him three times in the chest, then slammed a car door into him.

Pub Date: 3/20/97

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