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Hugh O’Connor’s widow testifies about husband’s cocaine supplier

July 19, 1997 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Carroll O’Connor’s daughter-in-law told a court Friday of the last days of her husband’s tormented life and his frenzied visits to the man who regularly supplied him cocaine.

Struggling for composure, Angela O’Connor burst into tears as she told jurors about her last talk with her husband before his drug-induced suicide on their third wedding anniversary.

``I called him,″ Ms. O’Connor said. ``I wanted to see how he was doing. ... He was hallucinating, thinking our conversation was being broadcast over the neighborhood.″

Across the courtroom, Carroll O’Connor’s face reddened and his wife, Nancy, wept. Harry Perzigian sat expressionless.

O’Connor, in a widely played television interview, once called Perzigian a ``partner in murder″ for supplying his son with cocaine. Perzigian is now suing the actor for slander.

After talking to his wife, Hugh O’Connor called his father and said he was going to shoot himself, Angela O’Connor said. The elder O’Connor called police, and the family rushed to the son’s home.

``I had no idea I would arrive and be told he was dead,″ she said, dissolving in tears. Superior Court Judge Malcolm Mackey recessed court for lunch.

Hugh O’Connor, 32, killed himself in 1995.

Perzigian, 41, has admitted sharing cocaine with Hugh O’Connor for years and even supplying it, but said he never sold it to him for profit and considered himself the young actor’s best friend.

Perzigian served a brief prison sentence for possessing and furnishing cocaine after Hugh O’Connor’s death. Perzigian has said he hopes to be awarded $10 million in the slander suit.

O’Connor testified that he thought it would be widely understood that he was talking figuratively in the interview.

Angela O’Connor was a wardrobe assistant on her father-in-law’s TV show, ``In the Heat of the Night,″ when she met her husband. She now has a 4-year-old son, Sean Carroll.

She said she smoked marijuana with her husband twice before they married, but was unaware of his cocaine addiction until they were wed.

Hugh O’Connor became increasingly paranoid, she said, and once slapped her, perforating her eardrum. She took their son and moved to Carroll O’Connor’s home where he hired security to protect her.

``I wanted Harry to be stopped from selling coke to Hugh,″ she said, ``but at the same time I was afraid he might harm me or my son because of that.″

They reconciled briefly, but a few weeks before Hugh O’Connor’s death she left their son at home alone with her husband, only to return and find them gone.

``I immediately thought, `He’s gone to Harry’s to get coke again,‴ she testified. ``About 10 minutes later, Hugh came home. He had white powder under his nose and was profusely sweating and he had Sean in his arms.

``That’s when I picked up Sean and went to Carroll and Nancy’s.″