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Marlon Brando's Son Held in Fatal Shooting : Homicide: Boyfriend of Christian Brando's half-sister is slain at the actor's estate. Suspect had accused victim of physically abusing her.

May 18, 1990|ERIC MALNIC and SCOTT HARRIS | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The son of actor Marlon Brando was arrested for investigation of murder early Thursday after the boyfriend of the actor's daughter was shot to death at the elegant Brando estate overlooking Hollywood.

Detectives said Christian Brando, 32, told them he shot Dag Drollet, 26, once in the head at about 10:40 p.m. Wednesday after angrily accusing Drollet of "slapping around" Christian's pregnant 20-year-old half-sister, Cheyenne Brando.

Although police said there was no sign of a struggle, the actor's son told them Drollet tried to grab the gun before Christian Brando fired the single shot.

Family members told investigators that Drollet's alleged abuse of Cheyenne Brando was an apparently isolated incident that occurred shortly before the slaying. Detectives said the young woman was not believed to be seriously hurt and bore no signs of injury. They did not say when the baby is expected or who the father is.

"We're not sure Christian was totally sober, but it doesn't appear to be some sort of drink fest," said Lt. Ron Hall, commander of the Los Angeles Police Department's West Los Angeles Division. "There were definitely no drugs."

The reclusive 66-year-old actor, his wife Tarita Tariipia and Cheyenne Brando were in the home at the time of the slaying and all heard the fatal shot, but none witnessed the shooting, according to Hall. The lieutenant said no one else was in the home at the time.

Marlon Brando tried to revive Drollet with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and called the 911 emergency number to summon police minutes after the shooting, according to attorney William Kunstler, who is representing the actor's son.

Police declined to release a tape recording or transcript of Brando's call to the emergency number, saying it may be used as evidence.

Hall said that arriving officers recovered the weapon used in the shooting, a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol, along with a shotgun, a .44-caliber carbine and two unregistered, fully automatic firearms--an Uzi submachine gun and an M-14 rifle.

"Christian has indicated that he was a gun enthusiast," Hall said, "but he has not given any other reason for why he had the weapons."

The shooting took place in the den of the Brando home. The Academy Award-winning actor, his wife and daughter were in other parts of the 12-room house, according to Hall.

Christian Brando and the other family members all waited in the home until police arrived, "and everyone, including Christian, was cooperative," Hall said.

Brando's single-story home and a nearby guest house are part of a sprawling, three-home complex on a two-acre site atop the Santa Monica Mountains, a few hundred yards west of Coldwater Canyon. The other two homes on the property belong to actor Jack Nicholson, according to property tax records.

Nicholson lives in one of the homes, but it was not known whether he was there when the shooting took place. The other home is rented to a Greek actress, Helena Kallianiotes, who once owned a trendy restaurant in Los Angeles called Helena's.

A tall wrought-iron fence surrounds the secluded, heavily wooded residential complex. None of the houses is visible from the street. The gate across the single driveway leading to the three homes is topped with a spiral of barbed razor wire.

The complex earned notoriety in 1977 when director Roman Polanski was arrested and charged with having unlawful sexual intercourse at one of the Nicholson homes with a 13-year-old girl. Nicholson was away on vacation at the time. Polanski pleaded guilty to the charge, but fled the country to avoid sentencing in 1978. He has never returned.

Dozens of news reporters gathered outside the gates of the complex on Thursday, searching for any scrap of information they could find to flesh out their stories. Some resorted to sifting though trash in a bin outside the compound, but all they found were a few fan letters addressed to Nicholson.

Helicopters bearing photographers circled overhead and carloads of people stopped to gawk.

At noon, Nicholson himself drove up and motored quickly though the gate, ignoring questions shouted at him by reporters. Christian's half-brother, Miko Brando, drove through the gate a couple of times, but he, too, ignored questions. No other members of the Brando family were seen.

Lt. Hall said detectives learned during interviews with the Brando family early Thursday that Drollet had maintained "a romantic relationship" with Cheyenne Brando for some time and had been staying in the Brando home since arriving here from Tahiti about 10 days ago.

Hall said that--like the actor's wife, Tarita, who co-starred with him in their remake of the film "Mutiny on The Bounty"--the slain man was of Pacific Island extraction. Marlon Brando owns a small, relatively undeveloped atoll 40 miles north of Tahiti called Tetiaroa.

Drollet was a member of a prominent Tahitian family that is influential in the politics of French Polynesia, according to sources in Tahiti.

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