Suspect in Custody in Connection with Jacqueline Avant Slaying

BEVERLY HILLS (CNS) - A 29-year-old Los Angeles man was behind bars today 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 city of Los Angeles, committed about 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.

Los Angeles police eventually contacted Beverly Hills police, and detectives were able to connect Maynor to the shooting of Avant, which occurred about 2:25 a.m. Wednesday in the 1100 block of Maytor Place. Details on that connection were not immediately released. But police said Maynor, who is on parole and has an extensive criminal record, was found in possession of an AR-15 rifle.

Stainbrook said a motive still has not been established for the killing of Avant, so it remains unclear if it was a simple robbery attempt gone bad. Video from the Avant home showed a shattered sliding-glass door, indicative of a break-in.

Avant died at a hospital following the shooting. Clarence Avant, 90, was not injured, nor was a security guard at the home.


Photo: Getty Images

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 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.

News of the arrest came just hours after a group of civil rights and community leaders called on the county Board of Supervisors today to offer a reward for information leading to the capture of the person or people responsible for the fatal shooting of Jacqueline Avant.

``This cowardly act cannot be unpunished,'' Michael Lawson, CEO of the Los Angeles Urban League, said during a news conference in Leimert Park. ``We must find who did this and we must take action.

``... 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,'' he 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 Jackie Avant and their children. The strength and talent and power of that family is unmatched. But their anchor was Jackie. Their anchor is Jackie. 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 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.''

Laker legend Magic Johnson said he and his wife were ``absolutely devastated'' by the death of Avant, whom he called ``one of our closest friends.''

``This is the saddest day in our lives,'' he wrote. ``Jackie was the sweetest person you could ever meet. She had a beautiful soul, kind heart & always had a kind word for everybody. She was quiet, yet powerful, & very smart. We are praying for Clarence, Nicole & Alex's loss. Our thoughts & prayers go out to the entire family.''

Stainbrook on Wednesday sought to reassure Beverly Hills residents, calling such violent crime ``extremely rare'' and saying, ``Your city remains safe and one of the safest in the nation.''

Photo: Getty Images

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