TARZANA, Calif. (KABC) — The search continued Friday for a missing Tarzana woman and her parents after her husband was arrested on suspicion of murder in connection with a dismembered female torso discovered near a dumpster in Encino earlier this week.
The whereabouts of Mei Li Haskell, 37, and her mother and father, Yanxiang Wang, 64, and Gaoshan Li, 71, remain unknown.
Haskell’s husband, 35-year-old Samuel Haskell IV, was arrested after the torso was found Wednesday morning in a parking lot near the intersection of Ventura Boulevard and Rubio Avenue. He is being held on $2 million bail.
Days after the suspect’s arrest, audio recordings obtained Friday may shed new light on the case.
The night before the female’s torso was found, the recordings reveal officers were dispatched to the Haskells’ home for reports of a possible body. In the audio, a dispatcher is heard saying that the person reporting the crime was outside the LAPD Topanga Station.
“The radio call on Nov. 7 at about 5:30 pm involved a suspicious bag that possibly contained human remains. When the officers responded, nothing was located,” LAPD Det. Efren Gutierrez said Wednesday at a news conference.
The LAPD hasn’t confirmed details on who made that initial call, but say when they returned to the home Wednesday they found blood inside.
The suspect’s mother told Eyewitness News that the family didn’t have a comment on the gruesome allegations her son is facing.
The grim discovery of the unidentified human remains led police investigators to a home in the 4100 block of Coldstream Terrace, where the Haskells live with their three children and Mei Li Haskell’s parents.
Elle Benami, a neighbor of the family members, spoke with Eyewitness News and said police told her and another person, who is friends with Mei Li Haskell, that body parts were found inside the Tarzana home. Investigators say no body parts, aside from the Encino dumpster discovery, have been found.
The day the investigation at the Tarzana home began, Gutierrez spoke at a news conference where he briefly described what was found inside the home.
“Here in the house, once officers made entry, what was discovered was evidence of a crime, including some blood evidence and other items that I’m not going to provide at this point,” said Gutierrez.
Since then, authorities have made no official announcement about what exactly was discovered after the home was searched.
DNA results from the dismembered body are still pending.
Benami told ABC7 Mei Li Haskell and her family moved into the Tarzana home during the COVID-19 pandemic. They developed a friendship and bonded over being mothers.
“I had a lot of common with her. We’re the same age. We both grew up abroad,” she said.
Benami said she helped her “keep her sanity” during stay-at-home orders at the height of the pandemic.
“Our kids were kind of going crazy, being cooped up at home, having Zoom classes,” she said. “So her boys and my kids would play here in the front yard or backyard.”
Benami believes Mei Li Haskell was born and raised in China. She also believes she met Samuel Haskell IV while in college in Southern California.
Samuel Haskell is the son of Sam Haskell III, who resigned as CEO of the Miss America organization after a 2017 email scandal. The elder Haskell was once a celebrity agent and founded Magnolia Hill Productions, which has produced various Dolly Parton specials.
Benami described her friend as a “very sweet, generous person, very social. She loved to throw parties — I’d say some of the best parties I’ve been to.”
During those parties, Samuel Haskell IV “would come in and was smiling and kind of friendly, but not outgoing,” according to the neighbor. “He would sit in the corner and after about 20 minutes, disappear — go to his room, maybe go on a walk.”
35-year-old son of former celebrity agent identified as suspect linked to Encino torso discoverySamuel Haskell, 35, was arrested after a woman’s torso was found near a dumpster in Encino. Though investigators have not identified the person, they say it may be his wife who’s currently missing.
The LAPD said the Haskells’ three young boys are now being cared for by family members.
Benami talked about the difficulty of explaining the situation to her children, given the likelihood that the Haskell children would not live in the Tarzana home again.
“To think that my next-door neighbor — a few feet away from my kids’ room — that something like that transpired there is insane to me,” she said. “She was an amazing mother to her three boys. They were definitely all, I would say, like, mommy’s boys …very attached to her.”