A 29-year-old Los Angeles man was behind bars Thursday in connection with the slaying of Jacqueline Avant, wife of music executive Clarence Avant, during an apparent break-in at the couple’s Trousdale Estates home in Beverly Hills.
Aariel Maynor was arrested about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday following an unrelated burglary in the 6000 block of Graciosa Drive in the Hollywood Hills, committed roughly an hour after Avant’s shooting, according to Beverly Hills police Chief Mark Stainbrook. Los Angeles police responding to that call found Maynor at the scene suffering from a gunshot wound to a foot, apparently self-inflicted accidentally, the chief said.
Stainbrook said Los Angeles police contacted Beverly Hills police, and detectives “collected evidence connecting Maynor” to the Avant shooting, which occurred about 2:25 a.m. Wednesday in the 1100 block of Maytor Place. Among the evidence collected was “a suspected weapon” from the crime, described by police as an AR-15 rifle. Stainbrook said Maynor is on parole and has an “extensive” criminal record, which bars him from possessing a weapon.
According to court records, Maynor pleaded no contest to a domestic violence charge in July of 2013 and was placed on probation, but later that year, he pleaded no contest to a robbery charge and was sentenced to five years in prison. He also has a grand theft conviction from 2010, according to court records.
“The evidence thus far shows that only one suspect was involved in the crime and the motive remains under investigation,” Stainbrook said.
Video from the Avant home on Wednesday morning showed a shattered sliding-glass door, indicative of a break-in.
“Our focus now has transitioned from finding a suspect to a continuing investigation that will lead to a successful prosecution,” Stainbrook said.
Avant died at a hospital following the shooting. Clarence Avant, 90, was not injured, nor was a security guard at the home.
Clarence Avant is known as the Godfather of Black Music, and has been regularly celebrated by artists such as Jay-Z and Diddy, L.A. Reid and Babyface. He began as a talent manager in the 1950s, worked at Venture Records in Southern California and founded L.A.-based Sussex Records and Avant Garde Broadcasting.
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in October.
Jacqueline Avant served as president of the Neighbors of Watts, a support group that focused on child care. She was also on the board of directors of UCLA’s International Student Center. She was also a member of the board for the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.
Rachel Fine, the Annenberg Center’s executive director and CEO, said Avant was “the kindest, most beautiful, humble and generous soul, who loved and appreciated the Wallis. Both she and her remarkable husband, Clarence, have been passionately involved with the Wallis since its earliest days, well before our campus opened to the public.”
Jacqueline and Clarence Avant have two grown children — Nicole and Alexander. Nicole Avant, a film producer who served as U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas during President Barack Obama’s administration, is the wife of Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos. She also served as a co-producer on the Netflix film “The Black Godfather,” a documentary about her father’s life and career.
Following the announcement of an arrest, the Avant and Sarandos families issued a statement saying, “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.”
News of the arrest came just hours after a group of civil rights and community leaders called on the county Board of Supervisors Thursday to offer a reward for information leading to the capture of the person or people responsible for the fatal shooting of Jacqueline Avant.
“… This must stop. This was not just a robbery. This was not just a random killing. This was a shot to the hearts of all of us,” Michael Lawson, CEO of the Los Angeles Urban League, said. “She was not only gentle and kind, she was a pillar of that family. … This is not only appalling, it is senseless, and it cannot be allowed to continue.”
The shooting “did not affect just the Avant family,” Lawson said. “This affects the entire family of Los Angeles, of the entertainment community, of the political community. You may not know, but President Obama would not be there without Clarence Avant. Clarence Avant would not be there without Jacquie Avant and their children. The strength and talent and power of that family is unmatched. But their anchor was Jacquie. Their anchor is Jacquie. I will not speak of her in the past tense.”
Activist Najee Ali of Operation Hope said Avant was targeted just as other affluent families, residents and businesses have been in recent weeks by brazen robberies, follow-home heists and smash-and-grab break-ins. He called Avant’s killing an act of cowardice carried out by someone who “was too lazy to get a job to feed themselves.”
The Avant family issued a statement after the shooting Wednesday saying, “The entire Avant and Sarandos families wish to thank everyone for their outpouring of love, support and heartfelt condolences for Jacqueline Avant. Jacqueline was an amazing woman, wife, mother and philanthropist and a 55-year resident of Beverly Hills who has made an immeasurable positive impact on the arts community. She will be missed by her family, friends and all of the people she has helped throughout her amazing life.”
Former President Bill Clinton issued a statement Wednesday, calling Avant “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. We are heartbroken. She will be deeply missed.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Jacqueline Avant was a longtime friend.
“I know we use this term a lot, but she was truly an angel in this City of Angels,” he 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.”
Beverly Hills Councilman John Mirisch wrote on Twitter Thursday, “The Avant family has been an important part of our BH community for more than half the city’s existence. Community is like an extension of family. While Jacqueline’s horrific murder is the worst nightmare possible for the Avant family, it is also a tragedy for all our community.”
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