Hassan Zarijifar was on trial, charged with attacking a police officer during some demonstrations against the shah of Iran that turned violent. The shah's sister was in Beverly Hills and a group tried to set it on fire.
Serving on the jury was Mrs. Joanne Cotsen. When the court adjourned for lunch on Wednesday, May 23rd, 1979, Mrs. Cotsen headed to her own Beverly Hills residence. Her father had founded a company called Natone. Her husband, Lloyd, built it up and changed the name to Neutrogena. He was in New York, on business.
Mrs. Cotsen did not make it back to court that afternoon. At some point she, her 14-year-old son Noah, and a friend of his came in contact with a masked man in the house. They were all tied up and fatally shot.
There was a man renting the Cotsen's guest house. That tenant and his girlfriend walked into the main house at some point and also came into contact with the masked gunman. Several reports say that they were also tied up but the woman (or both of them) escaped during an attempted rape, prompting the intruder to flee as well.
Lloyd Cotsen first heard the news from a radio in a car in New York, according to an LA Times writer.
Police first said it appeared to be a robbery, with the house “lightly” ransacked. But soon there was speculation about the trial Mrs. Cotsen was serving on the jury for. The Cotsen's guest house tenant had described an accent he thought was middle-eastern. Authorities did not find any links and the trial concluded with a guilty verdict the following day, after an alternate juror replaced Mrs. Cotsen.
|via The Deseret News|
Lloyd Cotsen was convinced that he was, in fact, the target. He hired bodyguards for himself and his three surviving children, who were already adults and had left the Beverly Hills home. He kept on the move, staying at hotels or with friends.
Nearly a year later police held a press conference to announce they were satisfied that the case was solved, but no arrests were made.
A bottle of chloroform had been left at the scene. It was a unique bottle from Belgium.
Decades prior, Lloyd Cotsen had purchased the rights to sell a soap created at Laboratories Fromont S.A. This would become Neutrogena's main product. When the creator died, he left everything to his mistress, who then married a Mr. Erich Arnold Tali.
Los Angeles detectives set up an interview with Mr. Tali, but he committed suicide hours before meeting with them. Police waited four months after that before going public, to make sure they were "satisfied with their case."
They concluded it was a business rivalry, with Mr. Cotsen as the intended target. Tali believed Cotsen owed the Belgian company more than they were paid. He had tried to sue Cotsen in European courts several times for the Neutrogena trademark but lost repeatedly.
Police believed Tali was the masked man. They had credit card records showing he flew from New York to Belgium the day after the attacks and an officer who reported seeing a suspicious man in the area that day identified Tali from a photograph.
Years later Lloyd Cotsen was appointed CEO of Neutrogena.