West Hollywood skin-care specialist found not guilty of plotting to kill rival

It took a jury just one hour to find a skin-care guru not guilty of plotting to kill a rival

It was a twisted story about a Hollywood rivalry with a murder plot.

Authorities accused a skin-care specialist to the stars of becoming so obsessed with a business competitor that she hatched a plan to have him killed, going so far as to approach a former NFL player to carry out the task.

But a Los Angeles County jury Thursday rejected that narrative, acquitting Dawn DaLuise of solicitation of murder and assault after deliberating for just an hour.

DaLuise's attorney, Jamon Hicks, praised the jury and said a couple of jurors had told him they thought the case should never have been filed.

When a court clerk read the not-guilty verdict, Hicks said DaLuise, 56, gasped and started crying.

"Thank you," she said. "Thank you, thank you."

A judge immediately ordered the release of DaLuise, who had spent the last 10 months at the women's county jail in Lynwood. In a statement to The Times, she said she was "ecstatic" and eager to be reunited with her family.

"I appreciate the jury for giving me justice!" she wrote. "I am looking forward to moving forward with my life. I will rebuild my life, my business and my brand!"

A district attorney's spokesman declined to comment.

Authorities arrested DaLuise last year, saying that text messages she sent showed she was serious about having her business rival, Gabriel Suarez, killed.

Suarez, reached soon after the verdict, was shocked by the news.

"It's horrible," he said before hanging up. "I can't say any more at this point. It's so horrible."

DaLuise, a former model, ran a West Hollywood "skin refinery" that used electrical muscle stimulation instead of the typical steam-and-cream facial. She boasted a clientele of Hollywood celebrities including Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Aniston and Alicia Silverstone.

Authorities said DaLuise had targeted Suarez after he opened a nearby skin-care boutique, Smooth Cheeks.

DaLuise began noticing lewd emails, fliers and at least one Craigslist posting targeting her. The Craigslist posting said she wanted to be part of a "rape fantasy" and listed her home and business addresses.

She blamed Suarez.

During the trial, a prosecutor said DaLuise told friends that she had found someone to "take out Gabriel." Deputy Dist. Atty. Christine Von Helmolt said DaLuise had been setting into motion a plot to hurt or kill Suarez, wrongly believing that he was behind the cyberstalking campaign against her.

But Hicks said the aesthetician was just complaining to friends and expressing her anger when she spoke to former Detroit Lions offensive lineman Chris Geile, a short-term friend, about killing Suarez.

"She has maintained from the start she was venting in the heat of the moment," Hicks said, adding that Geile testified "he never believed she solicited him."

Hicks said prosecutors offered DaLuise a deal on the eve of the trial: Plead guilty to felony solicitation for assault and go free. But DaLuise turned down the offer, insisting on her innocence.

During the trial, Hicks said he warned jurors that although they would hear "nasty, vicious, racist and homophobic" things that his client had said about Suarez, none of her comments showed she intended to have Suarez killed.

"As offensive as it is, it is not illegal," Hicks said.

A sheriff's spokesman said investigators eventually connected the cyberstalking against DaLuise to her friend Edward Feinstein.

Feinstein's attorney, Tamar Arminak, said she was "very surprised" by the jury's decision but declined to comment on how the verdict could affect her client.

Sheriff's Capt. Shaun Mathers said his department was continuing to investigate Feinstein.

"We are disappointed," he said of the verdict. "We believed, as did the D.A., we had a strong case. The jury didn't see it that way."



Times staff writer Sarah Parvini contributed to this report.

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