Trial begins for skin-care guru accused of hiring hit man to kill rival

West Hollywood celebrity skin-care specialist accused of plotting rival's killing goes on trial

A skin-care specialist known for her celebrity clientele and avant garde treatments became so obsessed with a rival aesthetician that she took the law into her own hands and solicited his killing, a Los Angeles County prosecutor told jurors Friday.

Dawn DaLuise, a former model known as the skin-care guru to the stars, wasn't just sharing her frustrations with friends when she said she hated Gabriel Suarez, a competitor who opened up near her West Hollywood business last year, Deputy Dist. Atty. Christine Von Helmolt said.

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FOR THE RECORD

Dawn DaLuise trial: In the Jan. 10 California section, an article about opening statements in the trial of skin-care specialist Dawn DaLuise on solicitation of murder charges incorrectly said that Edward Feinstein now faces charges in a separate prosecution. A prosecutor told jurors that Feinstein is under investigation, but he has not been charged and was not named as a co-conspirator in the complaint against DaLuise.

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Nor was DaLuise simply expressing her feelings when she told friends that she had found someone to "take out Gabriel," Von Helmolt added — she was setting in motion a plot to hurt or kill Suarez, wrongly believing that he was behind a cyberstalking campaign against her.

But DaLuise's lead defense attorney said the aesthetician was scared and merely venting to friends after she saw Craigslist posts that listed her name, phone number and address and said she wanted to be part of a "rape fantasy."

"This woman was scared out of her mind...she believed she was being stalked," Jamon Hicks, DaLuise's lead counsel, said. "She wasn't trying to have anybody murdered. She was venting. She was rambling."

The conflicting accounts of DaLuise's actions came during the first day of her trial in a South Bay courtroom on solicitation of murder charges.

Last March, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said DaLuise tried to hire a hit man to kill Suarez. Detectives said they found DaLuise's text messages that laid out a plan for the hit, which was never carried out.

"[DaLuise] conjured up all sorts of ways to counterattack Suarez because [she] was infuriated," Von Helmolt said. "She thought Suarez was committing heinous acts against her."

In what appeared to be a campaign against her, DaLuise's face had been Photoshopped onto pornographic photos, along with her name and the address of her business around the time Suarez moved into her building. Fliers listed her home address — as well as name and phone number — in addition to Craigslist ads listing her car for sale and her apartment for rent.

"None of these were generated by Gabriel Suarez," Von Helmolt said. "She never walked the few feet to confront him and never witnessed him doing any of these acts."

Authorities later connected the attacks to a friend and alleged co-conspirator's IP address. Edward Feinstein now faces charges in a separate prosecution. Another friend whom attorneys called Nick was also involved in the plot, they said.

The prosecution wrongly vilified DaLuise, Hicks said, by calling the stalking a "hoax."

"This was more than a hoax," he said. "You see sexually degrading acts being done ... it would make it seem as though her fantasy was to be raped ... to have people come unannounced into her building."

Standing outside the courtroom with his mother, Marina, Gabriel Suarez said he hopes justice will be served.

"It's scary to be put through so much and still having to deal with all this nine months later," he said.

sarah.parvini@latimes.com

Twitter: @parviniparlance

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