Man pleads guilty to murder in death of Jacqueline Avant
The man accused of killing Jacqueline Avant in her Beverly Hills home last year pleaded guilty to murder and weapons charges on Thursday, authorities said.
Police said Aariel Maynor, 30, broke into Avant’s Trousdale Estates home with an AR-15 rifle shortly before 2 a.m. on Dec. 1 and opened fire, fatally wounding the prominent philanthropist. As he fled in a car, Maynor also shot at Avant’s security guard, who was not injured, prosecutors said.
“This crime continues to shock the conscience. Mrs. Avant’s death was a tragic loss felt by our entire community,” Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón said in a statement.
Maynor pleaded guilty to murder, attempted murder, possession of a firearm by a felon and two counts of burglary. He will face more than 100 years in prison at his sentencing hearing on March 30, Gascón said.
Though California law requires most older inmates or those who have served 20 consecutive years in state prison to be eligible for parole, Maynor will not be eligible for early release because he has two prior strike convictions, said Greg Risling, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office.
Maynor was paroled from state prison just three months before shooting Avant. He had two prior convictions for robbery and causing great bodily injury, state prison records show.
Police say the man was found in the backyard of a home in Hollywood he was allegedly trying to burglarize and shot himself in the foot.
Avant, 81, was shot three times after her assailant broke a sliding glass door with what is believed to be a rock, law enforcement sources told The Times last year.
Her husband, music producer Clarence Avant, was home at the time but did not see the shooting, police said. When officers arrived, they found Clarence Avant cradling his wife’s body.
Maynor was captured by Los Angeles police officers a short time later in the backyard of a Hollywood Hills home, where he had shot himself in the foot during another attempted burglary.
It remains unclear why Maynor targeted the Avants’ home or if he knew whose residence he’d broken into. Clarence Avant told investigators that he heard an argument before the gunfire began.
Maynor’s defense attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Jacqueline Avant was a prolific philanthropist, serving as president of Neighborhood of Watts — a support group for child care in South Los Angeles — and also regularly donated to UCLA’s International Student Center.
Her husband advised or produced a slew of hit-making musicians including Jimmy Smith, Bill Withers, Babyface and Lalo Schifrin. Known as the “Black Godfather,” Clarence Avant received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2016 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year.
Those close to the Avant family expressed relief that Thursday’s plea meant they would not have to endure a lengthy criminal trial.
“It is still hard to believe she is gone for no reason. We are comforted this person has pled guilty to this most horrendous act,” said Michael Lawson, a friend of the Avant family and president of the Los Angeles Urban League. “We are all still mourning this senseless loss. I personally can only hope this is of some small solace to Clarence and his family.”
Maynor was 21 and homeless at the time of his first robbery conviction, in which he shoved a woman to the ground and kicked her in the face in Hollywood, according to a probation report.
Los Angeles police arrested Maynor for robbery a second time in 2018, records show. While in jail, he reported suffering from bipolar disorder among other conditions and said he had been taking medication that treats schizophrenia and depression, according to a medical order filed in court.
The stories shaping California
Get up to speed with our Essential California newsletter, sent six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.