What Happened To Dominique Dunne? | Part One

I mentioned on this blog a little while ago that I would be covering some true crime cases that occurred in the 1980s as well as recent ones. One of the cases that has saddened me for quite a long time is that of Dominique Dunne, the beautiful and talented actress who died in 1982 but what happened to her? I will be talking about Dominique in this post and some of the content may be distressing so please bare that in mind. 

Let's begin...

Dominique Ellen Dunne came into this world on the 23rd of November 1959 to a talented family. Her mother was a ranching heiress and her father was the legendary Dominick Dunne (he was a famous writer, producer and actor who was said to have known everyone in Hollywood. His nickname was Mr Hollywood. He was popular and respected in the showbiz industry). Her aunt and uncle were famous writers and she had two older brothers, one of which was also an actor. Dominique would later get bit by the acting bug and became quite a successful actress.

Her parents divorced in 1967 but remained good friends. Her mother suffered from multiple sclerosis and was confined to a wheelchair. Dominique was extremely close to her parents as she was with her brothers. 

After graduating from high school, Dominique moved to Florence in Italy for a year. She learned to speak fluent Italian and her parents would often visit her. When Dominique returned to LA from Florence she decided that she wanted to become an actress and studied acting at the famous Milton Katselas' Workshop. She then appeared in various stage productions such as My Three Angels, West Side Story and The Mousetrap.

Her first role was in the television film Diary Of A Teenage Hitchhiker in 1979. Dominique then appeared in various supporting roles through the early 1980s and had appearances in shows such as Fame, Hart To Hart and Lou Grant. She also had a recurring role on a show called Breaking Away.

Most people remember Dominique from her first feature film role which was in the all time classic horror movie Poltergeist in 1982. Dominique played the role of the sassy eldest sister Dana Freeling (her young co-star Heather O'Rourke who played her younger sister Carol Anne, would also sadly pass away at a young age in 1988) and the film was a massive success. 

Poltergeist opened on the 4th of June 1982 and was her only theatrical film appearance before her death. After Poltergeist she appeared in the television film The Shadow Riders and the final season premier episode of CHiPs. 

Shortly before her death, Dominique had been rehearsing for a role on the miniseries V. Dominique died during the filming of the show and her role was later recast with actress Blair Tefkin. The miniseries is dedicated to her.

Dominique appeared posthumously in the Hill Street Blues episode ''Requiem For A Hairbag'' which aired two weeks after her death. She played the role of a teenage mother who was being abused by her parents. The episode was dedicated to her. 

As a person, Dominique was popular and described as a sweet young woman who was devoted to animals, so much so that she would often take in stray animals off the street and take care of them. She also loved all things to do with the paranormal. 

John Thomas Sweeney: 

Dominique met John Thomas Sweeney in 1981 at a party. At the time he was working as a cooking hand at a restaurant called Ma Maison. At first, things seemed to be great between the pair. John seemed like the perfect gentlemen but people would later recall that he seemed to be more in love with Dominique than she was with him. At the time he seemed really devoted to her and people just took that as a sign of a young couple being in love.

Things were going so good between them that they decided to move in together. Dominique took John to visit her father and brothers in New York for a few days. Her brother Alex was polite to John but wasn't so sure about him. Her brother Griffen and her father Dominick were also polite but felt that John seemed to be a bit too devoted to Dominique and her father did think at the time that should they ever break up, Dominique may have some trouble with him but he tried to put that thought out of his mind.

The night of the first meeting between Dominique's father, brothers and John, her father phoned her mother to tell her that he thought that John seemed to be more in love with Dominique than she was with him which echoed what others who knew the couple had said before. Her mother agreed.

The next morning, Dominique's brother Alex told Dominick that an incident with John had happened the night before after he left them. He said that John had gone to the restroom and whilst he was in there, a man at the bar had recognised Dominique from the Poltergeist movie. He began to shout over to her ''What's happening''. Dominique thought it was funny but suddenly out of nowhere, John created a scene in the restaurant by grabbing the man, picking him up and shaking him. Everyone was shocked that the nice, polite young man could suddenly burst out of nowhere with this temper. Alex told his father that John was scary and made it clear that he disliked him. 

Dominick didn't know what to make of what happened that night, he may have thought it was just a misunderstanding or that John had had a bit too much to drink. He decided to meet Dominique and John for lunch a few days later. He was worried because he arrived late but he realised that they were not at the restaurant anyway. As he sat and waited, he began to wonder if he'd made a mistake or went to the wrong restaurant. Eventually John and Dominique showed up. Dominick recalled that Dominique looked like she had been crying and there seemed to be a bit of an atmosphere between the two of them. 

Dominick later said that he found John very difficult to talk to, he came across as ill at ease and nervous. John seemed to perk up when the chef came over to the table, both John and the chef had a conversation in French and kissed each other on the cheek. John bragged to Dominick that he had plans to open his own restaurant. 

Dominique and John returned home after their trip to New York and it was becoming clear that all was not well in the relationship. John was becoming more and more possessive, controlling and would fly into a rage at the least little thing. 

His outbursts would become physical with one incident involving him ripping out clumps of Dominique's hair. Dominique managed to get out and went to her Mother's house. Her mother later commented that she remembers seeing Dominique curled up in a foetal position in her hallway, holding her head where he had pulled the hair out. John suddenly showed up at the door and began thumping his fist on it. Dominique's mother shouted that she was going to call the police if he did not leave. Eventually he left. 

A few days later, for reasons unknown, Dominique returned back to the house that she shared with John. 

About a month after this incident (26th of September 1982), a friend who was staying with the couple heard choking noises coming from one of the rooms in Dominique and John's house, they went to investigate and found John with his hands around Dominique's throat trying to strangle her. The friend intervened and Dominique said that he was trying to kill her, John denied this and brushed it off as a disagreement. 

Dominique said she was going to the bathroom and would be right back. She jumped out of the bathroom window and jumped into her car. John heard the noise from the car outside and he ran out and jumped on the car bonnet. Eventually he got off of the car and Dominique drove away. She went to a friend's house because her mother was out of town.

She later called John and told him that the relationship was over for good this time.

Continued in part two...

 Please check out my other true crime posts:

Keep up to date with my latest posts on: @CaledonianTweet & Bloglovin  

Check out my community page & promotional platform for bloggers on twitter: @TheBloggersPost

If you enjoy my content or I have helped promote/share your blog and you would like to say thanks, you can donate a coffee to me here!! & I will give you a special shoutout on twitter (I can also include your social media links if you like. Don't forget to leave me your twitter handle) 

For all enquiries and collaborations, please contact: caledoniankblog@yahoo.co.uk


  1. Eeek, I need more.
    It's always so fascinating in a weird way seeing how things go wrong and all the red flags, and wondering how someone can be so trapped.

    1. I know, it's awful, these types of relationships. This guy was a master manipulator x