Suspect pleads guilty in killing of Avant

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Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — An ex-convict has pleaded guilty to murder and other counts in the shooting death of Jacqueline Avant, the wife of celebrated music executive Clarence Avant, during a burglary at the couple’s Trousdale Estates home in Beverly Hills last December.

Aariel Maynor, 30, of Los Angeles, could face up to 170 years to life in state prison when he is sentenced March 30 at the Airport Courthouse in Los Angeles.

Maynor entered his plea during a court hearing March 3. He admitted killing the 81-year-old Avant, who was shot around 2:25 a.m. Dec. 1 inside her home. He also admitted shooting at a security guard — who was not wounded — during the burglary.

Maynor, who appeared in court in a wheelchair and wearing a suicide-prevention vest, pleaded guilty to one count each of murder, attempted murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm, and two counts of residential burglary with a person present.

He also admitted allegations of using an assault long barrel pistol during the crimes, along with admitting prior robbery convictions from 2013 and 2018.

Superior Court Judge Kathryn Solorzano noted that a report indicated the 2013 robbery involved a woman who was kicked in the face and knocked unconscious, and that Maynor had been released on parole for the 2018 robbery in September 2021, just a few months before Avant’s killing.

Deputy District Attorney Victor Avila told the judge Avant was shot after confronting Maynor, who also fired “multiple shots” at the couple’s security guard, striking a vehicle. He subsequently broke into a home in the Hollywood Hills area and accidentally shot himself in a foot, the prosecutor said.

Los Angeles police responding to that burglary call found Maynor at the scene suffering from a gunshot wound to a foot, according to Beverly Hills Police Chief Mark Stainbrook.

Stainbrook said Los Angeles police contacted Beverly Hills police, and detectives “collected evidence connecting Maynor” to the Avant shooting.

Among the evidence collected was “a suspected weapon” from the crime, described by police as an AR-15 rifle. Stainbrook said Maynor was on parole and has an “extensive” criminal record, which bars him from possessing a weapon.

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, who was home at the time, was not injured.

Under questioning by the judge before his guilty plea was accepted, the defendant agreed that he was entering his plea freely and voluntarily and concurred when asked if he was thinking in a “linear way.”

Maynor also acknowledged that he was giving up his right to a hearing to determine whether there was sufficient evidence to allow the case against him to proceed to trial, along with his right to a jury trial.

“Guilty,” he said when asked about his plea to each of the five counts.

The judge also cited a report indicating that Maynor may suffer from a bipolar mental condition and asked if that was correct, with the defendant responding, “Yes.”

In a written statement released shortly after Maynor’s plea, District Attorney George Gascón said, “This crime continues to shock the conscience. Mrs. Avant’s death was a tragic loss felt by our entire community.”

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 last October.

Jacqueline Avant served as president of the Neighbors of Watts, a support group that focused on child care. She also was on the board of directors of UCLA’s International Student Center and a member of the board for the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.

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.

The Avant family issued a statement after the shooting 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 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.”

 

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