Son of former Hollywood agent is charged in woman’s murder

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LOS ANGELES – The son of a once prominent Hollywood agent and executive has been charged in the killing of a woman investigators believe to be his wife and whose remains were found bagged inside a dumpster in Los Angeles earlier in November, police said.

A Los Angeles Police Department spokesperson said on Saturday that investigators believed the woman whose torso was found on Nov 8 to be Mei Li Haskell, 37, the wife of the suspect, Samuel Haskell, 35, though confirmation of identity was pending.

As of Saturday, officials also were still searching for Haskell’s in-laws, Ms Yanxiang Wang, 64, and Mr Gaoshan Li, 71, who remained missing.

Detective Efren Gutierrez of the Los Angeles police said in a news conference earlier in November that officers had been sent to a residence on Coldstream Terrace in Tarzana, California, on Tuesday night because construction workers had reported seeing a dead body inside a plastic bag.

When officers arrived, though, “nothing was located,” Mr Gutierrez said. “There was no evidence that allowed the officers to make entry into the home.”

But the next morning, a person looking through dumpsters found a bag with a woman’s torso, police said.

Detectives determined that the house belonged to the Haskells, where they lived with their three children and Ms Mei Li Haskell’s parents, the spokesperson said. The Haskells’ children were being cared for by family members, police said.

It was not immediately clear if Samuel Haskell, who was in jail in lieu of US$2 million (S$2.7 million) bail, had a lawyer.

The case has placed a prominent Hollywood family at the centre of a criminal investigation: Samuel Haskell is the son of Sam Haskell III, a veteran talent agent and film producer, and Mary Haskell, an actress who in 1977 was crowned Miss Mississippi. Samuel Haskell’s sister, Mary Lane Haskell, is also an actress.

Calls placed to numbers listed as belonging to Samuel Haskell’s parents were not immediately returned on Saturday. Samuel Haskell’s sister declined to comment.

Sam Haskell III has produced a number of television pageant shows and several films and shows about Dolly Parton, including a 2019 Netflix series inspired by the fabled country star’s songs.

Mary Haskell, who has sporadic television show credits dating back to the 1990s, played a character in one of the episodes on the Dolly Parton Netflix series.

Sam Haskell III once worked at the William Morris Agency, where he was an executive vice-president in the late 1990s. He was considered one of the most powerful agents in the industry, representing high-profile clients like George Clooney, Ray Romano and Whoopi Goldberg.

He was listed as the president of Magnolia Hill Productions, where his biography page described him as being widely known as “the nice guy in Hollywood” who had made it big after moving west from Mississippi.

He was also the longtime head of the Miss America Organisation. His tenure ended in 2017 amid a scandal about derogatory remarks that he and other pageant leaders made about the competition’s contestants. NYTIMES

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