A rising star at celebrity trials like O.J. Simpson’s. Then a quiet, mysterious death

Kristin Jeannette-Meyers smiles in a portrait.
TV journalist Kristin Jeannette-Meyers in 1996.
(CBS via Getty Images)

Kristin Jeannette-Meyers made a career showing America the darkness behind its sunny facades.

As an anchor and reporter for Court TV and CBS News in the 1990s, she specialized in the legal sagas that transfixed the nation, from William Kennedy Smith, the Kennedy cousin acquitted of raping another bar patron in Palm Beach, Fla., to Lorena Bobbitt, a woman who, after what she said was prolonged domestic violence, severed her husband’s penis.

With a law degree and blond good looks the camera loved, Jeannette-Meyers reached the pinnacle of her success in Los Angeles in 1995 covering the biggest real-life film noir of all, the O.J. Simpson case.

“We felt like we were at the center of the universe,” recalled ABC’s chief legal affairs correspondent, Dan Abrams, a Court TV colleague who worked side-by-side with Jeannette-Meyers during the former NFL star’s murder prosecution. By its stunning conclusion, he said, she was “a star. She was borderline a household name.”


Then, within a few years, Jeannette-Meyers vanished from the airwaves and the lives of broadcasting colleagues who had marveled at her work ethic and ambition.

Last summer, she was found dead in Larchmont Village. A coroner’s investigator who arrived in June at a dilapidated Spanish villa behind a high hedge and in view of the Hollywood sign noted the decomposed state of her remains and wrote, “It is unknown the last time the decedent was known to be alive.”

An aerial view of single-family homes
Kristin Jeannette-Meyers, a once-celebrated television journalist, was found dead in her home, center bottom, in June 2023.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Her death, at age 57, drew little attention beyond an obituary her family published in her hometown New Hampshire newspaper. It attributed her demise, incorrectly it would turn out, to natural causes.

The Times learned of Jeannette-Meyers’ death last summer from a person concerned about the circumstances, but it took months for the coroner’s office to release its findings to the newspaper. That report, along with other public records and interviews, tell the story of a promising life derailed.

Just as the headline-grabbing cases that defined her career illuminated the problems of that era, her quiet passing underscores the plagues of today — mental illness, opioids and loneliness.


“I’m so horrified she came to such an end,” said Cynthia Bowers, her co-host at “CBS Morning News,” who remembered Jeannette-Meyers working out daily at Equinox in Manhattan and meticulously choosing silk suits that were alluring without being too sexy. “Kristin was the most pulled-together person I knew.”


The ad sought a companion for a woman who lived alone in a five-bedroom house on Gower Street. She was able-bodied, but ventured out rarely to pick up medications, cigarettes and cash from an ATM.

“She was terrified of leaving the house,” said Beatriz Sanchez, a professional caregiver who accepted the job about a year and a half ago. Sometimes she worked her whole shift without laying eyes on the woman, who spent the day in her bedroom in a routine Sanchez described as “pace, sleep, panic.”

“Don’t think you are here for no reason,” the woman told her when they communicated by phone or text. “You help me emotionally.”

The home on a corner lot in a coveted neighborhood was stately with a striking balcony, but it had fallen into disrepair. Trash bags filled the rooms and closets, and the yard looked “worse than the freeway,” Sanchez recalled. The woman’s cats relieved themselves inside, and a broken toilet spilled waste on the first floor.

“I couldn’t be in there without opening the window because I would feel like I would throw up immediately,” Sanchez said.


Still, the woman was “sweet, encouraging and grateful,” with an intelligence that could break through the side effects of her many psychiatric medications. Sanchez recalled thinking the dynamic was like “a bad science experiment.”

The woman mentioned that she was an attorney who had done some broadcasting. Sanchez Googled her. The face that stared back from the screen was unrecognizable.


Jeannette-Meyers was barely out of New York University law school in 1991 when she got hired by the upstart network Court TV. What she lacked in TV experience, she made up for in poise.

“There was never an ‘um’ or ‘you know.’ She was just on it,” said former Court TV producer Andy Regal, who worked with and dated her. “You just know when somebody’s got it.”

She was quickly dispatched to L.A. for the trials of the police officers charged in Rodney King’s beating and the men accused of attacking trucker Reginald Denny during the 1992 riot. She reported on the Supreme Court confirmation of Clarence Thomas and the parole hearings of James Earl Ray, who assassinated the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and Sirhan Sirhan, the convicted killer of Robert F. Kennedy.

It was a chaotic existence of 2:30 a.m. alarms and constant travel. When her luggage was lost en route to the Bobbitt trial, she went on camera in a $59 outfit from Kmart.


The nation seemed fixated on true crime in those years, and Jeannette-Meyers was tapped as a legal analyst to explain the twists and turns of the country’s latest courtroom obsession to venerable broadcasters like Dan Rather and Charlie Rose.

“Victims are allowed to make what’s called a victim impact statement,” she told CBS newsman Harry Smith in 1993 about testimony against Joey Buttafuoco in the so-called Long Island Lolita case. “All accounts are she will be here and very eager to give that statement.”

Veteran television executive Jim Murphy, who brought Jeannette-Meyers to CBS as an analyst, said, “That whole era, American news coverage was very salacious and very unimportant, you could say, because the world was a fairly calm place through the 1990s.”

The Simpson trial was the zenith. Jeannette-Meyers seemed to be in the courtroom, on air or working sources from dusk to dawn. Abrams, with whom she shared a seat at the trial, recalled, “She was meticulous, she cared about every little detail. And when other people got things wrong, it would drive her crazy.”

She could not run errands in L.A. without being recognized and, often, pumped for information. Legendary producer Robert Evans, one of the many celebrities obsessed with the trial, had Jeannette-Meyers over to his Beverly Hill estate frequently to discuss the latest developments.

When purported alibi witness Rosa Lopez made a much anticipated appearance at the trial, she rushed up to Jeannette-Meyers before entering the courtroom, gushing, “I know you from TV. You are so pretty!”


At one point, Jeannette-Meyers and another reporter were kicked out of the courtroom for whispering. Breathless coverage of the incident underscored her status. “A tabloid described me as ‘Kristin Jeannette-Meyers’ blond gal pal,’” recalled the other banished journalist, Gale Holland, who retired from The Times last year.

By the day the jury found Simpson not guilty, Jeannette-Meyers’ star was sky high in the broadcasting world. But inside Court TV, she had developed a reputation as a diva. After CBS News paid $25,000 to the smaller network to buy out her contract, someone leaked to the New York Post that the money had been divvied up among Court TV staffers for the “pain and suffering” of working with her. The tidbit was republished around the world and even in the American Journalism Review.

“It devastated her,” remembered Regal. “It’s not the way you want to be portrayed when you’re heading to CBS News.”

She only lasted a year as co-anchor of the “CBS Morning News” before being moved to a less prominent legal analyst role. She left the network a few years later and told co-workers she was moving to L.A. and getting married.

“I remember her seeming to be a perfect person, having a perfect life,” said Murphy, who had hired her at CBS and is now a CNN executive. “I assumed … she was going to have a very nice California lifestyle.”


The man who drew her to L.A. was Paul Bernstein, another NYU Law graduate who, like Jeannette-Meyers, had worked at the prestigious firm Skadden Arps Meagher & Flom. Bernstein did not respond to messages. When she arrived in 2000, he was in the midst of a divorce from his first wife, a lawyer with whom he had two young children.


The divorce and subsequent custody disputes stretched eight years, and Jeannette-Meyers was drawn into a more personal courtroom drama than the ones she’d known. Bernstein’s ex-wife lashed out in filings that portrayed her as a homewrecker. In one ugly Mother’s Day incident, the LAPD had to referee a visitation dispute at the home she and Bernstein shared, according to court filings.

Then in 2007, bad became worse. Bernstein and Jeannette-Meyers went to his elderly parents’ Westwood home that October to announce her pregnancy. An altercation apparently connected to the ongoing divorce broke out, according to dueling applications for restraining orders filed later.

Bernstein’s father accused Jeannette-Meyers of throwing a potted plant through their front window, and she alleged he had shoved her down his front steps, resulting in cuts and bruises to her back and neck. Both sides filed police reports, but no charges were filed. Two days later, Jeannette-Meyers began spotting, she wrote in an affidavit submitted to the court.

“For the next 5 days I laid in bed and slowly mis-carried my 15 week, 1 day old baby girl,” she wrote. “Nothing in life can prepare one for such sorrow.”

A family member said the rift between Jeannette-Meyers and her in-laws healed in subsequent years. Bernstein’s mother is dead and his father, 95, was unavailable.

Bernstein and Jeannette-Meyers finally married at the Beverly Hills courthouse in 2009, and she gave birth to a daughter in 2012. The joy was tempered by the newborn’s cancer diagnosis. Jeannette-Meyers kept vigil at her hospital bedside as the girl, now 11, was successfully treated.


“It’s not an overstatement to say her daughter would not be alive today if she wouldn’t have pulled out all the stops to get her medical care,” her sister-in-law Aline Bernstein said.

Her daughter was still a toddler when the crashes began. Jeannette-Meyers slammed into several cars in Hollywood in 2014, collided with a parked vehicle in Larchmont Village in 2015 and barreled into a car stopped at a light in Norwalk in 2016, according to lawsuits filed against her. The suits, two of which were dismissed before trial, do not shed light on what led up to the collisions. But David Goodstein, a musician who successfully sued for damage to his SUV in the 2014 Hollywood crash, said the circumstances left him with little doubt.

“You don’t fly down Cahuenga at 1 in the afternoon and hit all of the cars — Boom! Boom! Boom! — if you are not [messed] up,” he said.

She was en route to pick her daughter up at day camp in Santa Monica in 2019 when her car struck the center median on Pacific Coast Highway. She passed a breathalyzer test, but police officers noted a “3-inch sway,” fluttering eyes, “uncontrollably” shaking hands and difficulty focusing. They found “a pill organizer with multiple different types of pills” in her purse and booked her on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs.

She pleaded not guilty, but agreed to attend weekly Narcotics Anonymous meetings while awaiting trial. She went for a while, but stopped showing up to court in 2020. A bench warrant was still in effect the day she died.

Jeannette-Meyers’ husband is a high-powered Century City attorney who represents the corporate interests of celebrities such as NBA superstar Stephen Curry and Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. But in the DUI case, court records show she told the judge she could not afford a lawyer and was appointed a public defender.


She and Bernstein were having problems by then. In 2018, Jeannette-Meyers was standing outside an elementary school when a process server handed her papers announcing that her husband had filed for a legal separation. He asked court permission to sell the house on Gower and hinted at what was going on inside with a request that the judge order his wife to make “the two bedrooms she currently occupies … to be tidy and ‘broom clean,’” according to a court filing.

The home was not sold, but according to court records Bernstein moved out in 2021, taking their daughter with him. Sanchez, the caregiver who arrived the following year, said Jeannette-Meyers seemed optimistic about reconciliation with her husband and daughter: “She talked about her marriage like it was sacred, like it was the greatest thing.”

By then, there appeared to be few good things in Jeannette-Meyers’ life. She had a history of bipolar disorder, according to the coroner’s report, and was seeking medication from multiple doctors. A Burbank osteopath who treats addicts prescribed buprenorphine, an opioid that diminishes drug cravings and withdrawal, according to an inventory of medications. Another doctor prescribed Xanax, antidepressants and a panic disorder drug. She had other pills for major depressive disorder, nausea and ADHD.

The house continued deteriorating. There was an insect infestation inside the house and a rat problem outside. A complaint to the city code enforcement described the house as “abandoned” and “left open to the public.”

Jeannette-Meyers stopped wanting to leave the house at all, Sanchez said. When the caregiver asked her for some $8,000 in back pay, she couldn’t find her checkbook and seemed terrified by the prospect of entering a bank branch.

“She said she’s no good,” Sanchez said. “She said, ‘Just leave and I will mail you the money.’”


She never sent the money, and Sanchez’s attempts to collect her wages through small claims court in November 2022 were unsuccessful.

Bernstein filed for divorce May 12, citing irreconcilable differences. His attorney proposed a settlement in which he paid Jeannette-Meyers $7,000 a month, kept her on his healthcare and gave her the equity in the house. He also pledged to pay up to $10,000 for “reunification counseling” for her and their daughter.

A few days later, a process server delivered a copy of the divorce filing to the home on Gower. From the window, Jeannette-Meyers told the man that she was “on a call and will pick up after.” It appears to be the last time anyone spoke to her.

About six weeks later, a concerned neighbor forced her way into the home and discovered Jeannette-Meyers dead. She was unclothed in bed. The state of her remains limited the coroner’s examination, but after toxicology tests on her liver tissue, a deputy medical examiner ruled that the cause of death was a fatal combination of Xanax and buprenorphine. There was no note found, and he wrote that “based on the history and circumstances as I currently know them ... the manner of death is an accident.”

Regal, her former boyfriend, happened upon the obituary published by her family when Googling her name. His heart dropped, he said. He was left wondering, he said, “how somebody who was such a bright light ended up this way.”

Bowers, her former CBS co-anchor, said she remembered Jeannette-Meyers as the savvy journalist who made her laugh in their side-by-side makeup chairs, adding, “There [but] by the grace of God go any of us.”


Her body was cremated and the ashes sent back to the house on Gower Street, according to her death certificate. Her parents did not return messages seeking comment. But in her obituary, they wrote that her “ashes will be scattered in places that have meaning.”