article

07.01.12

Beverly Hilton Deaths: Elderly Couple Ruled a Double Suicide

The elderly couple found dead at the swank Beverly Hilton Hotel this month committed a double suicide, says the L.A. coroner. Christine Pelisek on their deep financial troubles.

One week after a married couple died mysteriously in their room at the luxurious Beverly Hilton Hotel—the home of the Golden Globe Awards and countless other swank soirees—authorities have determined that they both committed suicide by shooting themselves in the head. On Thursday, the Los Angeles County coroner ruled their deaths a “double suicide.”

The tragic story began on June 22 at 10:50 p.m. when the couple was discovered dead by paramedics in their posh hotel room, just hours before the 39th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards was scheduled to be held in the ballroom downstairs.

The case drew national attention in part because shootings are such a rare occurrence in Beverly Hills. The last shooting occurred in November 2010 when a lifelong crook gunned down well-known Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen as she was driving home in her Mercedes E350 from a movie premiere. The killer took his own life shortly after he bragged to neighbors and was confronted by police. Before that, actor Mark Ruffalo’s brother Scott, a hairdresser, died a week after he was shot in the head at his residence in 2008. A woman who was with Ruffalo at the time claimed that he shot himself during a game of Russian roulette, but the coroner ruled it as a homicide. His death has never been solved.

Last Saturday, the day after the shooting, the Daytime Emmys went on as planned, but there was speculation that the deaths were somehow connected to the awards. The Beverly Hills Police Department put the kibosh on that theory and initially described the victims only as “elderly,” but would give no other details about them or the circumstances of the shooting. They later said they were investigating the deaths as a “murder-suicide.”

That all changed on Thursday when the coroner concluded that Robert Egan, 69, and his 56-year-old wife, Barbra, shot themselves. (It took a week before their names were released because police were having difficulty tracking down their next of kin.)

This wasn’t he first time the grand hotel had made grim news.

“It is a very tragic situation and it is not a crime, so we are not delving any further,” said Beverly Hills Police Department Lt. Mark Rosen. “The case is pretty much concluded.” Rosen said the couple, who were living at the hotel since December, left a suicide note but he declined to discuss its content.

The Beverly Hilton was catapulted into the spotlight in February when Whitney Houston was found facedown in the bathtub of her suite just hours before she was planning to attend record mogul Clive Davis’s annual pre-Grammy party. But it wasn't the first time the hotel had made grim news. It was also the notorious spot where then–vice presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards was caught by the National Enquirer visiting his mistress, Rielle Hunter, and their baby daughter. Actor Peter Finch passed away from a heart attack in the lobby in 1977. And the undercover sting operation that eventually led to the downfall of Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss took place here, too.

Video screenshot

Whitney Houston's daughter accepts a Billboard Millenium Award on her late mother's behalf.

Still, little is known publically about the married couple or why they decided to commit suicide at the luxurious joint where President Obama stays whenever he's in town.

The website LinkedIn lists Robert Egan as a partner at Bedford James in Beverly Hills. According to the California secretary of state, the corporation was suspended in 2010.

He described himself as a “veteran of dozens of businesses” and a “serial entrepreneur and corporate executive with extensive M & A, start-up, turn-around, and operating skills.” He is also listed as the president of a number of corporations, including Amherst Corp., Amherst Realty Services, and St. James Partners, Inc. Those businesses were either suspended or permanently revoked by the secretary of state.

Money issues seemed to plague the couple. In 2005, they filed for bankruptcy in Los Angeles. At the time, Egan listed his occupation as a bookkeeper making around $2,000 a month. His wife, who was listed as unemployed, received just over $3,000 a month in state disability insurance. According to the court papers, Egan owed more than $150,000 in credit-card bills, more than $10,000 in unpaid medical bills, $40,000 to the California Franchise Tax Board, as well as $40,000 to the Internal Revenue Service. He reported that his 2000 Mercedes Benz SLK was repossessed in 2004.

In short, they seemed to be an ordinary couple with deep if mundane financial problems. For a short time, their deaths captured the world’s attention. Had they ended their lives anywhere else, we probably never would have heard of them.