LOS ANGELES—Powerful Democratic donor Ed Buck solicited Timothy Dean for months prior to Dean's suspicious death in Buck’s home, according to close friends, speaking out for the first time.
Dean was found dead on Jan. 7, the second black gay man to die at Buck’s West Hollywood Home in less than two years. Charges have not been filed against Buck in either death. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to press charges in the 2017 death of 26-year-old Gemmel Moore from a methamphetamine overdose at Buck’s apartment. They reopened an investigation into Moore’s death since Dean died.
Five friends told The Daily Beast that Dean characterized Buck as predatory.
In November, Dean asked DeMarco Majors, his friends of 20 years, to make him a promise. Sitting at Gym Sportsbar in West Hollywood, Dean looked Majors right in the eye.
“Ed Buck hits me up all the time, and I don’t answer none of his text messages,” he said, according to Majors. “Don’t you take your ass over there.”
For years, Buck had been plagued by accusations that he drugged young black men in his home on Laurel Avenue and eluded arrest by filling the coffers of California’s most powerful politicians. That July, the district attorney’s office announced it wouldn’t press charges against Buck in the death of Moore.
Majors didn’t know Buck, he told Dean. Still, Dean insisted that Majors steer clear of Buck. Majors said Dean pulled out his phone and opened his texts. He scrolled upward with a flick of his thumb.
“There were all these messages [from Buck], and Tim didn’t respond to none of them,” Majors told The Daily Beast.
Buck had been soliciting Dean for months, Dean told Majors. “Don’t you go over there,” he repeated. “I’m not going over there either. Shit, I’m not trying to end up dead.”
It was Majors’ last conversation with Dean.
On January 7, another death was reported at Buck’s. Majors texted Dean about it.
“I was going to text him a picture of a body they found,” he said.
But a friend texted Majors, “911.”
“The picture that I’m looking at is my friend’s body,” he realized.
Majors can’t understand why Dean walked 13 minutes to Buck’s house just past midnight that night.
Buck’s attorney, Seymour Amster, claimed the two men were friends of 25 years and that Dean arrived at Buck’s high on drugs and Buck was trying to help Dean get clean.
“We stand by our position that Mr. Dean reached out to Mr. Buck on the night of his death and not vice versa,” Amster said in a statement to The Daily Beast. Amster denied assertions that Dean warned friends away from Buck.
“This is contrary to the actions of Mr. Dean,” Amster said.
The lack of charges has drawn intense scrutiny of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and local elected officials. Buck has donated to all but one of West Hollywood’s city council members, Lindsey Horvath.
Dean’s cause of death remains undetermined. A toxicology report is pending, and the sheriff’s department has a security hold on the autopsy.
Detective Quilmes Rodriguez, the homicide investigator on Dean’s case, told The Daily Beast that “[Buck] and Dean have been friends for over 20 years according to our sources and Mr. Buck himself.”
Rodriguez declined to comment further on the relationship between the two men or the texts from Buck. However, he did not dispute their existence.
“We can’t reveal what exactly people have told us as the investigation is ongoing,” Rodriguez wrote in an email. “However any friend of Dean’s or Moore’s that [h]as information will be interviewed.”
According to Walter Harris, Dean’s friend of more than 20 years, Dean was involved with Buck years ago before Moore died. The two met at Gold’s Gym.
“Tim has always been a great guy that was always interested in politics,” said Harris.
Buck, who rubbed elbows with everyone from Hillary Clinton to former Gov. Jerry Brown, attracted Dean.
“Tim was telling me things about Ed that were kind of odd,” said Harris. “Those odd behaviours became kind of obsessions.”
For example Buck wanted Dean to wear white long johns, said Harris.
“It was getting weirder but when the guy [Moore] died, for Tim, I think it went to another level,” said Harris. “He didn’t want nothing to do with it after that.”
Harris also said Dean warned friends away from Buck after Moore’s death.
Ottavio Taddei, Dean’s roommate, said Dean’s friends had discussed Buck in the past.
“Timothy told him ‘Don’t go to the house of this person because he’s not a good person,’” Taddei said. “He said, ‘Don’t go in that house because you might never come back.’”
After Moore’s death, in 2017, Harris sent Dean an article about the incident.
Both Harris and friend Mark Chambers confirm Dean’s responses to the message, which The Daily Beast reviewed.
“Tim’s response was: ‘Devil,” said Chambers. “He knew the man [Buck].”
In messages to Harris, Dean called Buck, “fucking devil,” and said “This might be it for Ed Buck.”
Jermaine Johnson, another friend of 15 years, watched a news report with Dean on Moore’s death.
“He’s a horrible, horrible man,” Dean told him.
“Tim had nothing nice to say about this man,” Johnson added.
As much as Dean reportedly ignored Buck’s texts, he also apparently didn’t block his number. The two also remained Facebook friends.
In a post to Dean’s Facebook wall in 2013, Buck told Dean he should “get to work you lazy lima bean,” and referred to him as a “coconut blood clot.” The term “coconut” is a racist slur used to suggest that a person of color is “white inside.”
Still, friends have a hard time picturing Dean casually walking to Buck’s or doing drugs.
“Listen, ain’t none of us been saints,” said Majors. “We understand there’s certain things in the community. That’s a lonely drug... But if he was lonely, the last place he was going to go was over there.”
Dean knew the price of addiction. Majors, a former professional basketball player, overcame addiction to crystal meth when he was younger. Even years later, it was always Dean who helped Majors reaffirm his commitment to sobriety.
“I would always randomly see him when I needed to see him,” said Majors, adding he would run into Dean on the street in West Hollywood during a low moment. “Tim would look at you and say, “Girl, what you thinkin’?’”
Like many of his friends, Dean had tried drugs and talked openly about it. That was years ago, says friends.
“I like weed, and he didn’t even smoke weed,” said Taddei. “A couple of times I offered it to him, and he didn’t even like it.”
“He changed his entire life,” Majors said, adding that his recent baptism at OneLA Church in West Hollywood was especially centering for him. “There was a fullness in him, a deeper love in him.”
But Dean left his apartment on Hampton Avenue uncharacteristically untidy before he left for Buck’s. If there was anything he insisted on, it was a well-kept home, with fresh sheets and candles. He especially liked to clean up when Taddei left town. Taddei was visiting family in Bologna, Italy on the night Dean died.
When Taddei arrived home the day after Dean’s death, he found socks and shoes strewn across the floor. Towels lay in a heap. Two-thirds of a cocktail sat unconsumed. A fresh pack of condoms rested on the table.
“He was usually more precise than that,” said Taddei.
Taddei is the only friend of Dean’s that sheriff’s investigators have interviewed. He told The Daily Beast he spoke with an investigator for less than five minutes. Rodriguez said a dozen other interviews have been conducted in the case.
“No other witness has come forward and made themselves known, otherwise we would have definitely interviewed them,” Rodriguez said.
Dean spent at least part of his last night at home watching the Golden Globes. Like most Sundays, he called Johnson around 4:00 pm, and invited him over to watch the awards, have dinner and gossip.
Johnson had a date planned and declined. Even at 6 foot 5 inches tall, Dean was a lightweight, and he sounded to be two drinks in, Johnson said.
“When I talked to Tim, he was in a good mood,” Johnson said. “He was happy.”
At around 5:00 pm, Dean talked to Harris. Dean was upbeat. He was watching the Globes, and Kendrick Lamar was playing in the background.
“He was having a good old day,” said Harris. “He was going to walk to Gold Coast [bar], play pool and walk home.”
Dean was handsome, successful. His friends were practically family. Still, he had been single almost 20 years, according to Johnson.
“Could Tim have been lonely? I don’t doubt it,” said Johnson. “Had he had two or three more cocktails than he should [that night] and started calling everybody in his phone… and then this asshole is the only one person that’s available? That absolutely could have been the case.”
Dean woke at 4:30 or 5:00 most mornings to run through Runyon Canyon Park before heading off to work at Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills. He went to sleep early. He rarely went out late, except with close friends.
Friends say Dean literally brought light into the homes he entered. He would clean your house, stock your fridge, fill your living room with candles.
Majors can’t shake an image in his mind of Dean arriving at Buck’s door that January night.
“You knew when you knocked on that door,” Majors said. “I just feel it in the pit of my stomach. I just feel a darkness would come over you.”