LOS ANGELES — With a clientele of Hollywood celebrities including Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Christina Ricci and Alicia Silverstone, Dawn DaLuise was well-known as the skin-care guru of the stars.
The former model ran the West Hollywood salon Skin Refinery that used electrical muscle stimulation instead of the typical steam-and-cream facial. Vogue and InStyle magazines have featured her, and she’s the go-to beauty expert for national publications.
So last year, when aesthetician Gabriel Suarez moved in a couple of doors down and started offering facials and male body waxing, the competition created tension.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials say DaLuise, 55, tried to hire a hit man to kill Suarez, wrongly believing he was behind a cyberstalking campaign against her.
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Detectives said they found DaLuise’s texts that laid out her plan for the hit, which was never carried out.
“She is culpable for putting the hit on him,” said Capt. Shaun Mathers of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. “She believed it would be carried out.”
DaLuise was charged with one count of solicitation of murder and is being held in Los Angeles County Jail on $1 million bail. Her attorney did not return calls seeking comment.
The allegations have stunned neighbors and associates, who said they knew about the rivalry but never thought it would go so far.
Suarez said in an interview that DaLuise often gave him the cold shoulder when they came across each other, but that he never saw anything in her behavior to suggest she wanted to hurt him.
“That she just thinks she has the right to kill a human — and me on top of that,” Suarez said. “It’s just work, it’s not that serious.”
Sheriff’s officials said a bizarre series of events led to the attempted hit on Suarez.
DaLuise began noticing lewd emails, fliers and at least one Craigslist posting that targeted her. The Craigslist post said she wanted sexual liaisons that simulated rape and listed her home address.
Mathers said DaLuise assumed Suarez was behind the cyber campaign and that it was an escalation of their business competition. She confided her suspicions to a friend, Edward Feinstein.
“He says, essentially, ‘Yeah, yeah, it’s Gabriel.’ He continues to egg her on,” Mathers said. Feinstein “was pointing fingers at Gabriel and stalking her (DaLuise).”
At that point, authorities say, DaLuise reached out to a former NFL player she knew and talked about having Suarez killed. Mathers emphasized the man took no steps to carry out the hit and is not under investigation.
The scheme began to unravel after DaLuise reported the harassment to the Sheriff’s Department this month, listing Feinstein as a potential witness. Detectives discovered texts between the two in which DaLuise allegedly discussed the plan to have Suarez killed.
The Sheriff’s Department immediately arrested her “because of the impending danger,” Mathers said.
She appeared in court March 7, but her arraignment was postponed.
Around that same time, Mathers said, Feinstein disappeared. Members of the department’s fraud and cybercrimes unit continued to investigate and uncovered another twist: The cyberbullying messages and posts traced back to Feinstein.
Feinstein, whose rap sheet includes felony credit-card fraud, grand theft and identity theft, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of stalking and later released on $150,000 bail.
Mathers said Feinstein and DaLuise “had some beef,” but that any motive remains unclear. Suarez had nothing to do with the threats, Mathers added. Sheriff’s officials said another man is also under investigation in the cyberstalking.
The case makes for a strange wrinkle in the career of a woman who has long pampered the who’s who of Hollywood.
A 2002 piece in The New York Times quoted a peeved DaLuise, who attributed the sparse turnout at her daughter’s birthday party to “the trickle-down effect of Hollywood rudeness.”
In 2007, she told Star magazine she visited the set of “Friends” often because her client, actress Jennifer Aniston, was obsessed with getting frequent bikini waxes.
And in 2011, her name swirled around celebrity blogs after she dished to the media a scene involving Nicki Minaj after DaLuise waxed her eyebrows and lip.
According to her shop’s website, DaLuise moved to California to model for Frederick’s of Hollywood in the 1980s, but eventually enrolled in beauty school and got into the skin-care business.
“Dawn realized that women in Los Angeles take the business of staying beautiful, young and thin very seriously,” the site says.
Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.