Murdered Mei Haskell told friends for years that she wanted to divorce her husband, but feared his powerful Hollywood agent father would persuade courts to give him custody of their three children.
Friends of 37-year-old Mei, who is presumed dead along with her parents, told DailyMail.com she had repeatedly said that she wanted to leave Samuel Haskell IV for at least four years.
‘Mei first brought up a divorce when I was getting one in 2019,’ one friend named Jenny exclusively told DailyMail.com. ‘I told her she could do it, but she just felt like she couldn’t risk losing her boys.’
Haskell, 35, a director of low budget slasher movies, was charged in court on Monday with the murder of his wife and her parents.
Friends of Mei Haskell told DailyMail.com that she told them for years she wanted to leave her husband Samuel Haskell IV, 35.
Samuel Haskell IV, 35, was arrested last week on suspicion of murder after a dismembered female torso was found near his California office
Samuel and Mei are pictured together in a photo from 2013. ‘Mei first brought up a divorce when I was getting one in 2019,’ one friend named Jenny exclusively told DailyMail.com
The headless body of one woman was discovered in a dumpster near his office in Encino, California, while the others are still missing.
‘Mei felt trapped. She said she couldn’t leave because of the boys. She was afraid that her husband would take away the kids with the help of his very rich and influential father,’ said longtime friend Jenny who would only give her first name in fear of retaliation from the prominent Haskell family.
Haskell is the son of former top Hollywood agent Samuel Haskell III
‘She said it wasn’t happening. That there was no way she could get a divorce.
‘Maybe she brought it up again and then he snapped.
‘There was also physical abuse,’ added Jenny. ‘She told me that he had hurt her. He had hit her.’
Jenny also claimed that Mei had told her that her husband did not get along with her mother YanXiang Wang, 64, and father Gaoshan Li, 72. The parents had moved into their home in Tarzana, 25 miles north of Los Angeles, about five years ago to help look after the couple’s three young sons aged 6, 8 and 12.
‘She said he was rude to them and ignored them. That they made him angry,’ one friend said.
‘They couldn’t speak English, but he made no effort to interact with them.
‘When Mei’s youngest son was born, her parents moved from China to help take care of the baby. They were very helpful with the kids.
‘Mei doesn’t have any other family here except for her parents.’
Haskell is charged with killing the three on November 6. The woman’s torso was found two days later. He faces a possible death sentence if found guilty.
Mei’s tight-knit group of friends first suspected something was wrong when Haskell took the children to school – something his wife nearly always did – on November 8.
‘I thought it was odd,’ said one friend who asked to remain anonymous.
‘He even confirmed a playdate for our kids for this past Sunday,’ said the visibly shaken friend.
Jenny said she became concerned when she didn’t hear back from Mei after reaching out to her numerous times on Sunday night, November 5.
‘I knew something was wrong because she wasn’t replying to my text messages. She always responds right away,’ she said.
Mei Haskell (left), her mother YanXiang Wang, 64, and her father Gaoshan Li, 72, are all missing, with Haskell arrested on suspicion of murdering his wife Mei
Samuel Haskell IV, appeared in Los Angeles Superior Court before Judge Kimberley Baker Guillemet on a murder charges and dumping his wife’s body in a trash can on November 13, in Los Angeles Superior Court. The judge ruled that his face could not be pictured
Friends of Mei Haskell arrive for the appearance of her husband on murder charges at Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday
Haskell is the son of Samuel Haskell III, a former executive vice-president and worldwide head of television for the talent agency William Morris Endeavor. His clients included Dolly Parton, George Clooney, Kathie Lee Gifford, Whoopi Goldberg and King Charles’s brother, Prince Edward.
He quit in 2004 and went on to found Magnolia Hill Productions.
The murder suspect’s father was also CEO of the Miss America organization from 2015-17, but resigned after he was found to have criticized some of the contestants in private emails, ridiculing one for gaining weight and describing another as promiscuous.
Mei’s friends described her husband as ‘weird’.
‘He would make these sudden moves with his arms and just blurt things out,’ said one.
‘When I first met him, I immediately thought of Jeffrey Dahmer, that same creepy vibe. He would walk really fast with his head down, rarely looking up and never make eye contact.
‘We are absolutely devastated. Mei was such a bright light and loved her kids so much. She wanted to create a wonderful world for them and she did.
‘Mei was the one we would all go to if we needed help or advice. She was always there for us. She was always so positive. She never complained. Her boys were her everything and the boys loved her so much.’
LAPD officers returned to the Haskell home in Tarzana Tuesday as the search for more bodies continues. They also went to his office in Encino, DailyMail.com has learned
DailyMail.com revealed that Haskell, the son of a Hollywood agent, had an ‘obsession with weapons’ and kept a collection in the family home.
A bag with a headless torso was found stuffed into a duffel bag and tossed into this dumpster behind Ventura Boulevard and Rubio Avenue, near Haskell’s office
Authorities charged Haskell with the three murders on Monday.
‘These shocking and gruesome crimes have sent shockwaves through our community. We stand with the victims’ loved ones during this unimaginably difficult time and will do everything in our power to ensure justice is served,’ District Attorney George Gascón said while announcing them.
The investigation is still ongoing. LAPD officers returned to the Haskell home and his office on Tuesday.
When straggly-haired blond Haskell appeared in court on Monday afternoon he was bare-chested under a blue suicide vest, showing off his heavily tattooed arms.
Judge Kimberley Baker Guillemet allowed a DailyMail.com photographer in the court – but then ordered that Haskell’s face could not be photographed.
She ordered him held without bond and pushed his arraignment back to December 8.
Prosecutors allege that on the day following the murders, Haskell hired four day-laborers to remove black trash bags from his LA-area home.
One worker said he was paid $500 to remove three large trash bags. Haskell claimed they were filled with rocks before later pretending the body parts were ‘Halloween props’.
‘When we picked up the bags, we could tell they weren’t rocks,’ the worker told NBC LA, noting that the bags were soft and soggy.
Upon peering inside they saw ‘body parts, a belly button.’
‘I was astonished. Of course, I felt bad. We had been tricked,’ he said.
Neighbors of Haskell claimed he ‘seemed weird’ as they reacted to his arrest after a woman’s torso was found in a dumpster near his California home
The men then returned the bags and the money to Haskell’s home, telling him they did not ‘want to be involved.’
The workers went straight to law enforcement and informed the California Highway Patrol and the police.
Prosecutors allege that later that day, Haskell ‘was allegedly observed and photographed a short distance from his home disposing [of] a large trash bag into a dumpster in the 16000 block of Ventura Boulevard.’
Neighbor Elle Benami told DailyMail.com that Haskell ‘had an obsession with weapons.’
‘He had a samurai sword and a crossbow. He did martial arts.’ She said. I think he was a black belt and he would go to Japan to do martial arts.’
Benami said she would not allow her children to go to the Haskell home because of the guns she knew were in the house.
‘The kids could play here at my house or usually in the front lawn. I was ok with the kids playing in their front lawn,’ said Benami, who feared something could accidentally happen with so many weapons in the house.
Haskell’s sons even bragged to other neighborhood kids that they had weapons in the house, she added, noting that Mei did not like the weapons in the home.
‘Would I say that they seemed like a happy couple? No, but I definitely didn’t expect anything like this. I never could have imagined what happened,’ said Benami.