Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón announced charges in the killing of Beverly Hills resident Jaqueline Avant on Dec. 6. Aariel Maynor, 29, has been charged with Avant’s murder and the attempted murder of a security guard.
“Mrs. Avant was a treasured member of our community. Her generosity and good will touched so many lives,” Gascón said in a statement. “My office is working closely with the Los Angeles and Beverly Hills police departments in the investigation and prosecution of this case. We must continue to work together to hold accountable the people who commit violent crimes against our community.”
In addition to one count of murder and one count of attempted murder, Gascón’s office charged Maynor with possession of a firearm as a felon and two counts of residential burglary with a person present.
A representative for the City of Beverly Hills was not immediately available to respond.
According to Beverly Hills Police Department Chief Mark Stainbrook, Maynor shot and killed Avant at her home in the Trousdale Estates neighborhood in the early morning of Dec. 1. Prosecutors and law enforcement allege that Maynor then broke into a house in the Hollywood Hills later that same morning. In the process of allegedly stealing items from the home, he allegedly accidentally shot himself in the foot. Police say they found Maynor incapacitated in the backyard of the home.
Early in life, Avant modeled for the Ebony Fashion Fair, a traveling fashion event that exposed Black communities to high-end fashion. She married Clarence in 1967. The couple had two children, Nicole and Alex.
She was an active philanthropist, serving as the president of the Neighbors of Watts, the support group for the South Central Community Child Care Center, in 1975, the entertainment chairman of the NOW benefit auction, and she sat on the board of directors for International Student Center at UCLA in 1980. She sat on the board of The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.
Clarence, nicknamed the “Black Godfather,” is a titanic figure in the music industry who has worked with artists including Bill Withers, Sarah Vaughan, and Babyface. Their daughter Nicole served as U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas under President Barack Obama and is married to Ted Sarandos, co-chief executive officer and chief content officer for Netflix.
Susan Strauss, a former Design Review commissioner, knew Avant for 40 years, living near her in Trousdale at one point. The two worked together as docents at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and served as board members on The Wallis. She described the news as “devastating.”
“She was generous of spirit and kind and a wonderful friend,” Strauss told the Courier. Strauss remembered her as a devoted mother and wife of over 50 years who preferred to remain behind the scenes. “She was somebody who did her own thing in her own way that helped the community and a lot of people.”
As a Beverly Hills resident for over five decades and a lover of the arts, The Wallis had a special place in Avant’s heart, Strauss said. Strauss recalled that for Avant’s 80th birthday, she requested that friends make donations to The Wallis in her honor. On Dec. 1, The Wallis Executive Director and CEO Rachel Fine and Artistic Director Paul Crewes announced news of Avant’s death at the opening night of “LOVE ACTUALLY LIVE” and held a moment of silence. Fine noted that Avant and her husband would likely have been sitting in the audience and dedicated that night’s performance in her honor.
“Jacquie 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,” said Fine.
Outside The Wallis, the American flag and the California state flag flew at half-mast.
As shock rippled across the Beverly Hills community and beyond, people took to social media to express sorrow over the tragedy.
“A heartbreaking day in the history of Beverly Hills,” Vice Mayor Lili Bosse said in a Facebook post. “Crime of any type will never be tolerated in Beverly Hills. I, as well as our community, send our love and deepest sympathies to the Avant family.”
Maynor was scheduled to be arraigned on Dec. 6, but his medical condition delayed the arraignment to Dec. 7. He will appear in department W30 of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Airport Branch.