L.A. man, 29, arrested in Jacqueline Avant's killing in Beverly Hills

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  • Clarence Avant
    Music executive, entrepreneur, and film producer
BEVERLY HILLS CA DECEMBER 2, 2021 - Beverly Hills police Chief Mark Stainbrook announces the arrest of Aariel Maynor in connection with the shooting death of Jacqueline Avant, wife of music executive Clarence Avant, during an apparent break-in at the couple's Trousdale Estates home in Beverly Hills on Thursday, December 2, 2021. Maynor was arrested about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday following an unrelated burglary in the 6000 block of Graciosa Drive in the city of Los Angeles, committed about an hour after Avant's shooting, according to Chief Stainbrook. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Beverly Hills Police Chief Mark Stainbrook announces the arrest of Aariel Maynor, 29, in connection with the shooting death of Jacqueline Avant, wife of music executive Clarence Avant. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Beverly Hills police on Thursday arrested a 29-year-old Los Angeles man in connection with the killing of Jacqueline Avant, a prominent philanthropist and wife of music legend Clarence Avant, as more details emerged about the shocking crime.

Authorities accused Aariel Maynor of entering the couple's Trousdale Estates home early Wednesday and shooting Jacqueline Avant with an AR-15 rifle. Police did not disclose a motive for the attack. But hours later, Maynor shot himself in the foot at another home during an alleged burglary attempt, police said, and that is how he was connected to the Avant slaying.

The arrest marked a swift end to a manhunt in a case that sent shock waves throughout Hollywood and national politics, in which the Avants were prominent figures who counted celebrities as well as former President Clinton as friends.

"It is a sad case, and although we are happy we have an arrest, I feel so bad for the family,” Beverly Hills Police Chief Mark Stainbrook said. "The evidence thus far shows that only one suspect was involved in the crime and the motive remains under investigation. Our focus now has transitioned from finding a suspect to a continuing investigation that will lead to a successful prosecution."

Multiple surveillance cameras showed Maynor's vehicle heading east out of Beverly Hills after the Avant shooting, authorities said.

Shortly after Avant was shot, officers from the Los Angeles Police Department's Hollywood division arrived at a home in the 6000 block of Graciosa Drive in the Hollywood Hills. They found a man in the backyard who had a gunshot wound to his foot. Police determined that he had accidentally shot himself during an alleged burglary attempt at the home. He was arrested and taken to a hospital.

An "astute watch commander" in Hollywood connected the dots to the Avant case and alerted Beverly Hills, LAPD Deputy Chief Blake Chow said. Maynor has been in police custody since.

Police described the rifle as a "traditional" AR-15, not the compact variety.

The Beverly Hills Police Department has taken charge of the investigation into the Beverly Hills and Hollywood incidents. Police say surveillance and other evidence, including the rifle, linked Maynor to both cases.

Aariel Maynor, 29, in a mug shot
Aariel Maynor, 29, was arrested in connection with the killing of Jacqueline Avant. (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)

Maynor was sentenced to a five-year prison term in November 2013 for second-degree robbery and inflicting great bodily injury, according to California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesperson Joe Orlando.

Most recently, he served a four-year sentence for second-degree robbery with enhancements for a prior felony. He was released on parole supervision on Sept. 1 after serving his full sentence, Orlando said.

According to the Department of Corrections, Maynor did not have a permanent address when he was released.

Neither Maynor nor his attorney could be reached for comment, and a family member declined to comment when reached Thursday afternoon.

What appeared to be the suspect's Facebook page says he attended Hartnell College in Salinas, Calif., and was self-employed as an electrician. The page shows a Bible verse that reads, "It is an abomination for a king to commit wickedness because the throne is built on righteousness."

Police responded to a call of a shooting in the 1100 block of Maytor Place shortly before 2:30 a.m. Wednesday and found Jacqueline Avant with a gunshot wound. She was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she later died. Avant's husband and a security guard were also at the home during the shooting, Stainbrook said.

The chief said it appeared nothing had been taken from the home, but it will take some time to say with certainty.

Aerial video of the scene Wednesday showed a sliding glass door that appeared to have been shattered.

Hours after the arrest, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti remembered Avant as "a friend."

"I know we use this term a lot, but truly [she was] an angel in the City of Angels," Garcetti said. "She and Clarence, Nicole their daughter, I've known for many years, and I've seen and witnessed the way their generosity touched the lives and transformed the lives and even saved the lives of so many people in this city and in this country. And my thoughts continue to be with the Avant family today."

In addition to being an L.A. philanthropist, Avant, 81, was a prominent figure in national Democratic politics for decades.

Clinton was among those who paid tribute to Avant after the shooting, tweeting that she was “a wonderful woman, a great partner to Clarence and mother to Alex and Nicole, an active citizen & a dear friend to Hillary and me for 30 years.

“She inspired admiration, respect & affection in everyone who knew her,” Clinton said. “We are heartbroken. She will be deeply missed.”

Avant served at one time as president of the Neighbors of Watts, a support group for the South Central Community Child Care Center, and as entertainment chair of the NOW benefit auction.

Her husband is a legendary figure in the music industry, working with or advising such stars as Jimmy Smith, Lalo Schifrin, Babyface, Bill Withers, Sixto Rodriguez, the S.O.S. Band and Cherrelle.

Known as the “Black Godfather,” he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2016 and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2021.

Their daughter, Nicole Avant, served as U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas during President Obama’s administration and is married to Ted Sarandos, co-chief executive and chief content officer for Netflix. In 2007, she described her parents’ deep ties to Democratic leaders, including the Clintons.

In a statement, the Avant and Sarandos family said: "Our deepest gratitude to The City of Beverly Hills, the BHPD and all law enforcement for their diligence on this matter. Now, let justice be served.”

In announcing the arrest Thursday, Stainbrook said, "To the Beverly Hills community, let me reassure you, this is one of the most protected and patrolled cities in the world. Crime of any kind will not be tolerated here.

"Let this be a message to anyone thinking of committing a crime in Beverly Hills: You will be caught and brought to justice," the chief said.

Times staff writers Gregory Yee and Matthew Ormseth contributed to this report.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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