A 190-year prison sentence was handed down to a parolee who murdered 81-year-old philanthropist Jacqueline Avant, the wife of a legendary music executive. The killing happened during a burglary at her Beverly Hills home.
In Los Angeles Superior Court last month, Aariel Maynor, 30, pleaded guilty to murder and other charges. He admitted to shooting Avant in the back with an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle on Dec. 1 and fired several rounds at a security guard as he fled.
Known as the “Godfather of Black Music” for mentoring and helping artists’ careers, including Bill Withers, Little Willie John, L.A. Reid, Babyface, Jimmy Jam, and Terry Lewis; Clarence Avant, a Grammy winner, was the husband of the murder victim.
Prosecutors said, after breaking into the couple’s house during a burglary attempt in which he hoped to steal $50,000, Maynor shot Jacqueline Avant after she surprised him.
The parolee broke into a home in the Hollywood Hills less than an hour after fleeing the scene. He accidentally shot himself in the foot as he left.
Maynor, a Bloods gang member with a lengthy criminal record, arrived at court in a wheelchair.
Avant used her money for charities that helped low-income neighborhoods such as Watts and South Los Angeles. She was on the board of the International Student Center at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Last year, Clarence Avant, 91, a concert promoter and manager, was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
The day before the killing, prosecutors said Maynor had searched for information on Clarence Avant and the couple’s address. According to a court document filed by Deputy District Attorney Victor Avila, Maynor showed no remorse for the slaying; he laughed with a friend on a recorded jail phone call about all the news stories about him. “You think my mama’s seen that?” he asked.
“I don’t know, but that’s not funny,” the unidentified woman said. “Why are you laughin’? That’s somebody’s life. That’s somebody’s family member.”
During their 54 years of marriage, the Avants had two children; Alexander Du Bois Avant and Nicole Avant, a film producer and former U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas married to Netflix co-CEO and Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos.
Tributes were paid to Avant and her charitable work by former President Bill Clinton, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, and Quincy Jones after the death of Avant.
“Today marks the end of a tragic case that rocked our community,” District Attorney George Gascón said. “Her murder sent shockwaves through our community, prompting fear, concern, and a tremendous sense of loss.”
On parole for his second robbery conviction, Maynor bragged to another friend during a jail call that he expected a shorter prison stay because prosecutors were not seeking a life without parole sentence. “I’m gonna get out of jail. I’ll probably do like 20 … 25, get out, you feel me?” he said.
Under a policy put in place by Gascón, prosecutors relied on the Three Strikes law that can trigger a life sentence for a third serious or violent felony. They did not seek a special circumstance allegation that the killing was committed in the act of a burglary, which could have led to a possible sentence of life without parole.
Maynor confessed to police he was on drugs the morning of the shooting. He also said he was bipolar, grew up poor, and was raised in foster care. Some of Maynor’s prior offenses were unsuccessfully argued not to be considered “strikes” by a defense attorney. But Avila argued those were not alleviating factors and that Maynor “demonstrated a high degree of violence and callousness.”
“He shot Jacqueline Avant in the back with a large-caliber weapon and attempted to kill her security guard,” Avila said in his court filing. “If that was not enough, within an hour he decided to break into another home with the same firearm. This demonstrates a complete disregard for the life of all the victims in this case.”
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