The son of a well-known Hollywood executive is at the centre of a disturbing homicide investigation after authorities recovered the dismembered torso of a woman believed to be his wife.
The Los Angeles Police Department announced the arrest on Wednesday of 35-year-old Samuel Bond Haskell Jr, just hours after the gruesome discovery was made by a homeless man sifting through a dumpster five miles from the suspect’s home in Tarzana.
Authorities have not officially confirmed the identity of the victim, but believe it is Mr Haskell Jr’s 37-year-old wife Mei Haskell. The couple have three children, aged six, eight and 12, who were located safe at their school and are now in the custody of the Department of Child and Family Services.
Mei’s parents Gaoshan Li, 72, and YanXiang Wang, 64, are missing.
Mr Haskell Jr is is the son of Emmy-winning Hollywood producer Sam Haskell Sr and former Miss Mississippi Mary Donnelly Haskell. Mr Haskell Sr is the president of Magnolia Hill Productions, the company in charge of several of Dolly Parton’s recent projects, and has represented the likes of George Clooney, Whoopi Goldberg, Martin Short and Prince Edward in the past, according to TMZ.
Here’s everything we know about the case:
Who is Samuel Bond Haskell Jr?
According to his IMDB page, Mr Haskell Jr followed in his father’s footsteps, working in the entertainment industry.
The younger Haskell is a director and producer who has worked with A-list celebrities, including Tyga and Machine Gun Kelly, the DailyMail.com reports. However, he reportedly expressed frustration on social media after failing to achieve his father’s level of success.
In recent TikTok videos on an account linked to Mr Haskell Jr, he complains about his “unhappy, bitter, resentful” resume.
Mr Haskell Jr’s father was embroiled in controversy during his tenure as CEO of Miss America. He resigned from his role in the organisation in 2017 after several emails of him exchanging cruel and sexist comments about past contestants were leaked.
In some of the emails, obtained by HuffPost, Mr Haskell Sr joked about a contestant’s death and referred to another with vulgar terms.
Mr Haskell Sr was an agent with the William Morris Agency for 27 years. He also produced Dolly Parton’s specials “Dolly Parton’s Magic Mountain Christmas” and “Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors,” per TMZ.
Mr Haskell Jr’s mother Mary Donnelly Haskell is an actor and was crowned Miss Mississippi in 1977. She has been married to Mr Haskell Sr since 1982 and shares another adult child with him.
According to police, Mr Haskell Jr and his wife lived with their three children and her parents in the affluent Los Angeles neighbourhood of Tarzana.
Mr Haskell Jr had a history of troubles with the law. He was arrested on charges of assault with a weapon in 2008 and was given three years of probation, according to court records obtained by the LA Times.
Woman’s torso found in dumpster leads police to Mr Haskell Jr
Detective Efren Gutierrez told NBC that officers first responded to Mr Haskell’s home in the 4100 block of Coldstream Terrace on Tuesday evening after construction workers called 911 and reported what they thought was a human body wrapped in black bags.
“When the officers responded, nothing was located,” Det Gutierrez told the network. “There was no evidence that allowed the officers to make entry into the home... The bags that were described were no longer outside.”
The workers who alerted authorities on 7 November told NBC that Mr Haskell reportedly paid them $500 to remove what he claimed were three “bags full of rocks” from his home. But once they lifted the bags, the labourers were shocked to see the chilling contents.
“I started seeing body parts, a belly button,” one of the workers, who wished to speak under condition of anonymity, told the network in Spanish. “I was astonished. Of course, I felt bad. We had been tricked.”
The men told NBC they left the three bags on the driveway of Mr Haskell Jr’s home, returned his money and then drove to the police station.
The following day, a homeless man found a human torso inside a dumpster at a parking lot in San Fernando Valley, about five miles from Tarzana. Surveillance video from the scene led authorities to Mr Haskell Jr.
The medical examiner has yet to confirm the identity of the human torso, but LA Capt Scot Williams told The LA Times that it’s assumed to be Mei’s.
Authorities also said that blood was found in Mr Haskell Jr’s Tarzana home, where they believed the murder of the woman whose torso was found took place. The house is currently being searched for evidence.
“Here in the house, once officers made entry, what was discovered was evidence of a crime, including some blood evidence and other items that I’m not going to provide at this point,” Det Gutierrez said.
Mr Haskell Jr was arrested at a mall in Topanga and charged with murder.
He is being held on $2m bail.
Investigators have been unable to locate Mei and her parents. Authorities have asked for the public’s assistance in locating two of the family’s missing vehicles, a white VW Tiguan and a white 2014 Nissan Pathfinder.
“They would normally be home in these hours, and attempts have been made to contact them by phone, by cellphone and no answer,” Det Gutierrez said. “And the same with Mei. She is unaccounted for.”
Neighbour says suspect ‘seemed off’
A neighbour of the Haskells told ABC7 that she had become friends with Mei but Mr Haskell Jr’s demeanour had struck her as odd during a party held at her home.
“They came there ... very nice, beautiful but he husband, something seemed so off,” the woman, who wished not to be named, told the outlet. “Something seemed so weird. I thought maybe he is sick, or something was wrong. All I said was, I kept saying to my family, ‘Something is wrong with him.’”
Fellow local resident Sally Raber told the outlet that she did not know the family very well but happened to run into Mr Haskell Jr on the day of his arrest.
“I was driving on Tuesday and I saw him on the street, he was wearing all black,” Ms Raber recalled.
Another neighbour described Mei as a “loving, hardworking mother who loved her parents,” KTLA 5 reports.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Los Angeles Police Department at (213) 486-6890.