With a clientele of Hollywood celebrities including Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Aniston and Alicia Silverstone, Dawn DaLuise was well-known as the skin-care guru of the stars.
The 55-year-old former model ran a West Hollywood "skin refinery" that used electrical muscle stimulation instead of the typical steam-and-cream facial. Vogue and InStyle magazines have featured her, and she's the go-to beauty expert for national publications.
So last year, when esthetician Gabriel Suarez moved in a couple doors down and started offering facials and male body waxing, the competition created tension.
L.A. County Sheriff's Department officials now say that DaLuise tried to hire a hit man to kill Suarez, wrongly believing that he was behind a cyber-stalking campaign against her.
Detectives said they found DaLuise's text messages that laid out her plan for the hit, which was never carried out.
"She is culpable for putting the hit on him," said Capt. Shaun Mathers of the
DaLuise was charged with one count of solicitation of murder and is being held in Los Angeles County Jail on $1-million bail. Her attorney did not return calls seeking comment.
The allegations have stunned neighbors and associates, who said they knew about the rivalry but never thought it would go so far.
Suarez said in an interview that DaLuise often gave him the cold shoulder when they came across each other, but never saw anything in her behavior to suggest she wanted to hurt him.
"That she just thinks she has the right to kill a human — and me on top of that," Suarez said. "It's just work, it's not that serious."
Sheriff's officials said a bizarre series of events led to the attempted hit on Suarez.
DaLuise began noticing lewd emails, fliers and at least one Craigslist posting, which targeted her. The Craigslist post said she wanted sexual liaisons that simulated rape and listed her home address.
Mathers said DaLuise assumed that Suarez was behind the cyber campaign and that it was an escalation of their business competition. She confided her suspicions to a friend, Edward Feinstein.
"He says, essentially, 'Yeah, yeah, it's Gabriel.' He continues to egg her on," Mathers said. Feinstein "was pointing fingers at Gabriel and stalking her [DaLuise]."
At that point, authorities say, DaLuise reached out to a former NFL player she knew and talked about having Suarez killed. Mathers stressed the man took no steps to carry out the hit and is not under investigation.
But the scheme began to unravel after DaLuise reported the harassment to the Sheriff's Department earlier this month, listing Feinstein as a potential witness. Detectives discovered text messages between the two in which DaLuise allegedly discussed the plan to have Suarez killed.
The Sheriff's Department immediately arrested her "because of the impending danger," Mathers said.
She appeared in court last Friday, but her arraignment was postponed.
Around that same time, Mathers said, Feinstein disappeared. Members of the department's fraud and cyber-crimes unit continued to investigate and uncovered another twist: The cyber-bullying messages and posts traced back to Feinstein.
Feinstein, whose rap sheet includes felony credit card fraud, grand theft and identity theft, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of stalking and later released on $150,000 bail. Mathers said Feinstein and DaLuise "had some beef," but that any motive remains unclear. Suarez had nothing to do with the threats, Mathers added. Sheriff's officials said another man is also under investigation in the cyberstalking.
The case makes for a strange wrinkle in the career of a woman who has long pampered the who's who of Hollywood.
A 2002 piece in the New York Times quoted a peeved DaLuise, who attributed the sparse turnout at her daughter's birthday party to "the trickle-down effect of Hollywood rudeness." In 2007, she told Star magazine she visited the set of "Friends" often because her client, actress Jennifer Aniston, was obsessed with getting frequent bikini waxes.
And in 2011, her name swirled around celebrity blogs after she dished to the media a scene involving Nicki Minaj after DaLuise waxed her eyebrows and lip.
According to her shop's website, DaLuise moved to California to model for Frederick's of Hollywood in the 1980s, but eventually enrolled in beauty school and got into the skin-care business.
"Dawn realized that women in Los Angeles take the business of staying beautiful, young and thin very seriously," the site says.
An employee at a nearby business, who asked not to be identified because he is friends with DaLuise and Suarez, said he'd heard her complain about Suarez in the past. At one point, said the employee, she said she wanted him kicked out of his shop. Nevertheless, the employee said he feels certain that any threats she made about Suarez were hollow.
"She's always like, 'This guy, this. This guy, that,'" he said. "She makes people upset, but I know she doesn't mean it — 100%. She can't do anything."
But that's little consolation for Suarez, who now sometimes keeps his shop door locked during the day.
"It's really made me fearful of being alone," he said.