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Oprah on Beverly Hills Murder: 'World Is Upside Down'

Jacqueline Avant's shooting death follows string of robberies targeting the rich and famous
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 2, 2021 1:05 PM CST
Oprah on Beverly Hills Murder: 'World Is Upside Down'
Police tape blocks the intersection of Maytor Place and Barrie Drive in the Trousdale Estates section of Beverly Hills, Calif., on Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

(Newser) – Oprah Winfrey is among the celebrities in shock at the killing of Jacqueline Avant, a philanthropist with ties to the rich and famous who called Beverly Hills home for half a decade. The 81-year-old wife of legendary music producer Clarence Avant and mother of former US ambassador to the Bahamas Nicole Avant was shot early Wednesday during an apparent break-in. Some early reports indicated a security guard was wounded, though Beverly Hills Police Chief Mark Stainbrook denied that at a Wednesday press conference just a day after he was sworn in, per the Los Angeles Times. The latest:

  • What happened: The break-in in the Trousdale Estates area came before 2:30am, Stainbrook said. "We just don’t know what the purpose was." The Times reports a sliding glass door was shattered. Jacqueline Avant, who suffered a gunshot wound, was conscious when paramedics arrived but died at a hospital, a source tells the outlet. Clarence Avant, 90, and a security guard were home at the time but not injured, Stainbrook said. He didn't say if they witnessed the shooting.

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  • Similar crimes: There have been a string of "follow-home robberies" targeting the rich and famous around LA. In October, masked men smashed a sliding glass window at the Encino mansion of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Dorit Kemsley before stealing valuables worth as much as $1 million, per a separate story in the Times. A month later, masked individuals tracked former BET host Terrence Jenkins to his Sherman Oaks home. He was able to escape despite shots fired.
  • Not random?: At least 133 of these follow-home robberies are under investigation, according to the LAPD. In announcing a task force dedicated to the issue last week, Police Chief Michel Moore said the department hadn't seen violent hold-ups "like this in decades." Stainbrook wouldn't say if the Avant attack was the latest in the string, or even if it was a robbery, but he said he did not think it was random. The suspect or suspects are still at large.

  • Philanthropy: Avant "gave so much back to everyone else,” Stainbrook said. A formal model, she was a president of the Neighbors of Watts charity, an entertainment chairman of the NOW benefit auction, and served on the board of the International Student Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, per NPR. She also served on the cultural committee for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
  • 'Queen of the people': Tennis Channel president Ken Solomon, a family friend, said the Avants "effortlessly traveled between artists and kings, and Jackie really was like the queen of the people," per the Times. "She was always the person in the room who people would listen to." That's especially high praise considering the Avants rubbed elbows with presidents, governors, and music industry legends. Former President Clinton described Avant as "a dear friend to Hillary and me for 30 years."

  • She inspired her husband: Music producer Quincy Jones said Avant "was the purest of souls in every sense, & was the Rock of Gibraltar for Clarence, their children, her friends, & community." In a 2019 Netflix documentary she produced about her father, dubbed the "Godfather of Black Music," Nicole Avant said "my mom is really the one who brought to my father and our family the love and passion and importance of the arts and culture and entertainment," per NBC News.
  • Oprah 'in shock': "The fact that this has happened, her being shot and killed in her own home, after giving, sharing, and caring for 81 years has shaken the laws of the universe," Oprah Winfrey wrote online late Wednesday, per CBS Los Angeles. "The world is upside down." She added she was "numbed and in shock" at the loss of "the classiest, kindest, and most calming presence."
  • More celeb comments: Retired NBA star Magic Johnson said the Avants were "like royalty in a sense, because of what they have been able to do to help other people achieve their goals and dreams." He added the family held special regard "in Black America." Tweeted actor Viola Davis: "So sorry for the Avant family. My heart goes out to you!!! OMG!!!! Where are we??!!! WHAT are we?!!"
(Read more home invasion stories.)

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