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Daughter of Brando Kills Herself in Tahiti : Suicide: The actor's child Cheyenne was the linchpin of the 1990 case in which her half-brother Christian was charged with killing her lover. She had been troubled by mental problems since.

April 18, 1995|ERIC MALNIC | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Actor Marlon Brando's daughter Cheyenne--the troubled onetime model whose half-brother killed her lover in the movie star's sprawling Hollywood Hills home--has committed suicide in Tahiti, officials said Monday.

Cheyenne Brando, 25, who had been in seclusion for months, hanged herself at her home on the South Pacific island, authorities said. Friends said she had suffered from depression since Christian Brando fatally shot Dag Drollet in a 1990 case that made news around the world. She reportedly had attempted suicide at least twice previously.

Marlon Brando had no comment Monday and planned to issue no statement, said his agent, Ed Limato. Limato declined to disclose the actor's whereabouts.

At the time of Drollet's shooting, Cheyenne Brando--a native of Tahiti--had been visiting Southern California for psychological counseling after being disfigured in an auto accident on the island. She was in her father's Mulholland Drive home when the shooting occurred and at one time was charged with complicity in Drollet's death.

The charges against her eventually were dropped. Christian Brando--claiming that the shooting was an accident and that he acted in rage because Drollet had beaten Cheyenne--pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The plea was arranged by his attorney, Robert Shapiro, now one of O.J. Simpson's lawyers.

Cheyenne Brando's death Sunday came as her father was enjoying resurgent success on the screen playing a psychiatrist in the romantic comedy "Don Juan DeMarco." His earlier acting triumphs are legendary, including acclaimed performances in the Broadway and film versions of "A Streetcar Named Desire" and Academy Award-winning roles in the films "On the Waterfront" and "The Godfather."

News reports from Papeete, French Polynesia, indicated that Cheyenne Brando was found hanging in the bedroom of her home in the Punaauia area Sunday night. The reports did not indicate whether a suicide note was found.

Cheyenne Brando, the daughter of Brando and his Polynesian wife, Tarita Tariipia, and Drollet, son of a prominent Tahitian politician, had been living together in Tahiti for more than a year before they separated in March, 1990, according to sources there.

Sources said the separation took place a few months after Cheyenne--a model known for her exotic beauty--was disfigured in a car crash.

Despite the separation, Drollet and Cheyenne flew to Los Angeles together about May 1, 1990, and both moved into the Brando home on Mulholland Drive.

Police said that about 10:40 on the night of May 16, 1990, Drollet, 26, and Christian Brando, then 32, got into an argument.

Christian Brando claimed he shot Drollet accidentally during a struggle after accusing Drollet of "slapping around" his half-sister, who was seven months pregnant with Drollet's child. Prosecutors charged Christian with murdering Drollet, saying there was no evidence of a struggle.

Marlon Brando, Tariipia and Cheyenne were in the home when Drollet was shot, police said. The actor tried to revive Drollet with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and called 911 to summon police.

A month after the shooting, after attempts were made to serve her with papers naming her as a material witness, Cheyenne flew to Tahiti. Prosecutors said she was trying to avoid testifying in the case. A few days after that, she gave birth to Drollet's child, and within days she entered a psychiatric hospital for treatment.

In the months that followed, prosecutors launched an international battle to have the young woman returned here to testify at her half-brother's trial.

While the battle raged, Cheyenne overdosed on tranquilizers and antidepressant drugs and lapsed into a coma at a hospital in Tahiti. She recovered briefly, then tried to hang herself, according to her father.

On Dec. 22, 1990, a judge declared her "mentally disabled," ending the five-month struggle to compel her to testify. With their star witness in Tahiti and their case a shambles, the prosecutors struck a deal with Shapiro, and Christian Brando pleaded guilty to the manslaughter count.

Santa Monica Superior Court Judge Robert Thomas imposed sentence after listening to an hour of emotional, rambling testimony by the defendant's famous father.

Gesturing to the photographers in the courtroom, the movie star said the Brando name had blown the case out of proportion.

"This is the Marlon Brando case," he said. "If Christian were black, Mexican or poor, he wouldn't be in this courtroom. Everyone wants a piece of the pie."

Although Christian Brando was sentenced to 10 years in state prison, he has been given time off for good behavior at the state Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo, and he could be paroled as soon as January, according to Corrections Department spokesman Tip Kendall.

The escape from testifying did not resolve Cheyenne Brando's problems.

In January, 1991, she flew to Paris to undergo treatment for a nervous breakdown. Six months later, she disappeared from the clinic where she was being treated.

In November, 1991, after tracking her father to a secluded estate outside Orleans, French police found and arrested Cheyenne on Tahitian charges of complicity in Drollet's death. She was placed in protective custody at a nearby hospital and was flown to Tahiti on a French military plane. Tahitian authorities later dismissed the charges against her.

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