It was a tragically lovely day to die in West Hollywood. The summer time sky was Technicolor blue, and palm fronds undulated within the breeze exterior the low-rise Nineteen Sixties condominium block the place 30-year-old Kimberly Fattorini, a Playboy casting affiliate and part-time mannequin, was drawing her final breaths on a pal’s sofa. Sooner or later between 10:30 a.m. and three:30 p.m. on Friday, July 21, 2017, she slipped from chemical oblivion into everlasting slumber.
Even earlier than the toxicology report was full, phrase unfold that Fattorini had overdosed. She had spent the earlier night time at a brand new membership referred to as The Spotlight Room together with her pal Monica Maass, a Playboy mannequin. Maass advised an investigator from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Division (LASD) the 2 ladies had been out all night time ingesting and doing cocaine earlier than returning to Maass’s condominium at 5 a.m., the place Fattorini had fallen asleep. At about 3:15 p.m. Maass realized Fattorini wasn’t respiratory and referred to as 911.
Maass’s preliminary recollection of occasions would finally be contradicted by textual content messages discovered on Fattorini’s and different individuals’s cell telephones, in accordance with allegations in a wrongful dying lawsuit filed in July 2019 by Fattorini’s grieving mother and father. However that Friday afternoon, because the investigator surveyed each the physique and the condominium, he discovered no purpose to suspect foul play. Neither did the coroner, who dominated Fattorini’s dying an accident, regardless of the bruises on her legs and gamma hydroxybutyrate—higher often known as the date rape drug GHB—in her system. On the face of it, Fattorini was simply one other unfortunate blonde who lived too quick and died too younger in Hollywood. Till, that’s, earlier this yr, when her mother and father’ lawsuit surfaced on social media, placing forth a special and decidedly extra sinister model of occasions, one which shines an uncomfortably vibrant gentle on the excesses of the shady Hollywood membership scene and the hazard that lies past the velvet ropes.
The Fattorinis’ lawsuit claims that someday after The Spotlight Room closed at 2 a.m. on July 21, Fattorini, Maass, and a 3rd Playboy mannequin named Stefanie have been invited to the house of a infamous nightclub promoter named Eli Wehbe. The lawsuit additionally alleges that unbeknown to the three ladies, Wehbe had “assigned” every of them to himself and his two buddies: a automobile supplier named J. P. Castro and former NFL linebacker Shawne Merriman.
In line with a sequence of textual content messages connected to the criticism, whereas Fattorini and her buddies have been partying at Wehbe’s home within the early hours of Friday morning, Wehbe was texting Castro to say he was entertaining a bunch of girls who have been “scorching as fuck” and telling him to deliver chasers. “Just one is weak placing her to sleep tho,” Wehbe added. “Coke supplier can bang her. He will get the scum.” A couple of hours later, Wehbe texted Merriman: “Received 3 whores over. I’m tryna eliminate them so I can smash [Stefanie].” (Smash that means “have intercourse with.”) “Aight, I can come and take them,” Merriman replied, referring to Fattorini and Maass. Merriman, who was 20 minutes away, advised Wehbe he deliberate to take Fattorini to a lodge “if she’s down.” “If she’s not I can chill right here idc [I don’t care],” he added. “Not within the temper for video games.”
Merriman arrived at Wehbe’s home between 8:30 and 9 a.m., allegedly clutching a bottle “stuffed with a liquid.” Shortly afterward, Fattorini despatched Wehbe the next messages:
“However Your pal simply poor’d half G in my drink [“G” meaning GHB]
And I’ve by no means
Don’t fall asleep come Test on mr llllllllllllqlqllqllll
Me when you may”
In an announcement posted on his web site after Fattorini’s mother and father’ lawsuit surfaced earlier this yr, Wehbe claimed that after receiving her texts, he checked Fattorini “was okay” and that when he walked her, Merriman, Castro, and Maass to the entrance door to say goodbye a short while later, “everybody appeared in good spirits and in good condition.” Nevertheless, the lawsuit—which names Wehbe, Merriman, Castro, Maass, The Spotlight Room, and one other nightclub referred to as Warwick as defendants—means that Fattorini was so out of it at Wehbe’s home she didn’t even notice she and Merriman have been nonetheless in the identical constructing.
When the soccer participant, who was downstairs, repeatedly texted Fattorini to ask for her tackle (“I’ll name a automobile for us,” he supplied), she saved responding “The place r u” interspersed with gibberish corresponding to “No dgtvr nnmmmmmmmmo” earlier than sending him a screenshot of Wehbe’s home on a map. At round 10:09 a.m., Merriman ordered an Uber to take him, Fattorini, Maass, and Castro again to Maass’s condominium, the place, in accordance with the criticism, Maass invited everybody inside for a drink.
By the point paramedics arrived 5 hours later, Merriman and Castro have been gone, and Fattorini was mendacity on the lounge ground. In line with the lawsuit, her lips have been blue, her bra was twisted, and her denims have been “unzipped and unbuttoned.” She was pronounced lifeless at 3:30 p.m.
Kimberly Fattorini was blonde and delightful, with a cool job and a big Instagram presence (over 150,000 followers). Her life resembled a sizzle reel of mid-2000s chick flicks: The Home Bunny meets Legally Blonde, with a contact of Imply Women, remastered for the social media age. She was all the time immaculately groomed: her butter-yellow tresses elegantly coiffed, nails polished, eyelashes expertly glued on. Even at 6 a.m., when she arrived at Playboy Plus, Playboy’s broadcast and digital arm, to supervise casting for The Playboy Morning Present, she regarded “good,” remembers Tricia Cruz, a sound engineer. “I’d sit there and go, How did she do it?”
Earlier than arriving in Hollywood, Fattorini accomplished a double main in enterprise administration and economics at Whittier School in Whittier, California, the place in 2009 she was honored as an “Excellent Pupil.” She dressed the half, too. For the workplace, she favored “the cutest little enterprise outfits,” says mannequin Lola Palermo.
Along with her desk job at Playboy Plus, Fattorini would step in entrance of the digital camera, starring in a Playboy TV phase referred to as “What a Woman Desires: Bed room Etiquette,” or would seem as a visitor on Playboy Radio. If her father, Ferdinand, a senior vp at Sony Photos, and mother, DeAnn, had reservations about Fattorini’s profession, they didn’t inform her, in accordance with Cruz. Fattorini as soon as tweeted about DeAnn assembly her for lunch at work. (Ferdinand and DeAnn declined to be interviewed.)
Till shortly earlier than her dying, Fattorini was additionally in a long-term relationship with fellow casting director Sam Rhima. At one level the couple have been so shut—some described them as “codependent”—that in addition to dwelling collectively, they shared a desk at Playboy Plus. At nightclubs or on pink carpets, the duo would typically be flanked by an entourage of fashions. “All the ladies would look as much as Kimmy,” says Fattorini’s pal Carrie Overgaard. “And a number of the ladies would have crushes on Kimmy.”
Like all the things in Hollywood, nevertheless, life wasn’t all the time as shiny because it appeared onscreen. What Fattorini actually wished was to be a Playboy centerfold. In her downtime, she burnished her portfolio, posing for males’s magazines like Maxim and FHM Thailand, however with every passing yr, her possibilities grew slimmer, particularly after she turned 30 in October 2016. By then, Playboy was additionally in disaster, buffeted by the triple risk of falling circulation, the burgeoning #MeToo motion, and founder Hugh Hefner’s failing well being. “We noticed the writing on the wall,” Cruz remembers. “All people was advised to begin in search of different jobs.”
Cracks had additionally begun to look in Fattorini and Rhima’s relationship. “She wished to have a child and get a home,” says pal Jennifer Riley. “She was rising up.” Nevertheless, Rhima, a Hefner wannabe, apparently wasn’t able to cool down. In line with Riley, someday after her thirtieth birthday, Fattorini broke issues off, though buddies suspected the couple would get again collectively. At her funeral, Rhima gave a eulogy lamenting that they might by no means get the possibility to wed. “I feel he had a number of guilt about that,” Palermo says. (Rhima declined to be interviewed.)
Within the aftermath of the breakup, Fattorini moved in with a pal and started partying much more. However few of the pressures weighing on Fattorini in early 2017 have been evident to her social media followers, who have been solely uncovered to the highlights: a pool occasion on Sundown Boulevard; strolling the runway at a style present; dancing at a nightclub. “When she began to have issues with Sam, she began to exit much more and was doing extra medicine,” says a mannequin who shared a detailed pal with Fattorini and spoke on situation of anonymity. “Her life was simply spiraling, you recognize, inside. Nobody noticed it from the surface.”
If Fattorini represented the aspirational, PG face of L.A.’s clubland, Eli Wehbe was the R-rated model. Till April, when the Fattorinis’ lawsuit was made public, Wehbe, who’s tall, with darkish eyes, chiseled cheekbones, and tattoo sleeves, was thought-about the king of golf equipment. His occupation—and the center finger he typically held aloft in photographs—belied a religious household, who lived an hour away. “Loving my brother requires persistence, understanding, and strolling with him although we’re extremely totally different individuals,” his sister Diana, a Christian motivational speaker, wrote in a Fb submit considering the Catholic that means of household.
Wehbe’s fiefdom was a scorching spot referred to as Warwick, the place he was a accomplice and sometimes butted heads together with his colleagues. “He wasn’t very gracious,” says Kelsi Kitchener, cofounder of occasion firm VIPER by KCH, who labored alongside Wehbe on the membership: “You’d be arduous pressed to seek out somebody who would say, like, ‘Eli is such a fantastic, good, form man.’ ” Kirstina Colonna, who used to work as a bottle server at Warwick, says Wehbe was as soon as so impolite to her she threw a tray of drinks at him. “He’s the type of man, if you happen to’re not gonna play his recreation, he’s not gonna be good to you. And so he wasn’t good to me,” she says. “And to be honest, I wasn’t very good to him both.”
It’s unclear how Fattorini met Wehbe—the lawsuit claims it was a month or two earlier than her dying—however they’d lengthy operated in the identical orbit. Wehbe was adept at cultivating strategic relationships with celebrities corresponding to Paris Hilton, Brody Jenner, G-Eazy, and the so-called King of Instagram, Dan Bilzerian, a pal of Fattorini’s. “His clientele was a number of influencers, YouTubers, CW actors, athletes,” Kitchener says.
In line with the lawsuit, after assembly Fattorini, Wehbe started plying her with invites to Warwick. “He positively paid consideration to her,” Riley says. For Fattorini, simply out of an intense seven-year relationship, Wehbe’s solicitations little doubt represented a possibility to let unfastened and, maybe, make Rhima jealous. What Fattorini might not have realized was that within the dimly lit world of Hollywood nightclubs, she was weak—particularly if, as her mother and father allege within the lawsuit, Wehbe was lavishing alcohol and medicines on her. “He would additionally provide and urge everybody, together with Kimberly, to make use of cocaine and occasion with him round his VIP community till the solar got here up,” the Fattorinis’ criticism claims. “It was the character of his enterprise. He was bringing the ladies to get the VIPs and convey them collectively at his golf equipment. He would push medicine and after-parties as a way to hold the expertise going for the VIPs, thereby making certain repeat enterprise for the golf equipment, an extension of his community, revenue, and an increase within the ranks.”
In July 2017, The Spotlight Room opened on the roof of the Dream Hollywood lodge, and Wehbe began selling Thursday nights there. That summer time, the membership was the place to be seen in L.A. Even earlier than its launch, it was attracting marquee names like Calvin Harris and Lana Del Rey. So though Fattorini was as a result of go on trip together with her mother and father the next day (garments and a suitcase have been discovered specified by her condominium after her dying), Wehbe’s invitation to the grand opening on July 20 was presumably a no brainer.
As a result of her journey meant she’d even be lacking Maass’s birthday celebration that weekend, Fattorini steered that Maass be a part of her on the opening. The ladies, who’d met at a Playboy Plus casting some 5 years earlier, have been shut, vacationing in Hawaii and Las Vegas and celebrating holidays collectively. “Kim seen her and trusted her as a pal,” Tawnie Jaclyn, Fattorini’s roommate, wrote on Instagram.
The lawsuit is silent about what precisely happened between the group arriving at Maass’s condominium and the 911 name, however it alleges that Merriman was nonetheless current when Maass spoke to the operator—that, in truth, he was the one who moved Fattorini from the sofa onto the ground on the 911 operator’s request—and that when the operator instructed Maass to start CPR, she replied: “I’m not gonna do this. I don’t wish to contact her.”
In her preliminary assertion to the investigator, Maass claimed that she and Fattorini arrived at her condominium at 5 a.m. and went to sleep (in accordance with the textual content messages connected to the criticism, they have been really at or on their option to Wehbe’s home at the moment) and failed to say that each Castro and Merriman had been current. “Foul play shouldn’t be suspected,” the deputy coroner wrote in his preliminary report, during which he additionally recorded Maass’s model of occasions. It was this assumption, the Fattorinis declare, that led to the coroner failing to carry out a sexual assault examination; by the point an LASD detective requested one, “in gentle of extra data he had obtained,” it was now not potential.
Two hours after calling 911—and with Fattorini’s physique nonetheless sprawled throughout her front room ground, awaiting elimination by the coroner—Maass went to satisfy up with Merriman. In line with the criticism, even Wehbe was stunned the duo had reconvened that night, replying “Wtf” when Merriman advised him by way of textual content.
Nobody has ever been arrested in reference to Fattorini’s dying. In line with Lieutenant Robert Westphal of the L.A. Sheriff’s murder bureau, the case was closed in September 2017, two months after she died. “The coroner’s workplace dominated the reason for dying an accident, so primarily based on that, and no different proof that may assist every other conclusion, we’re now not investigating,” he advised ELLE. “I’m certain each potential clue or lead would have been investigated earlier than this conclusion was reached.”
Within the absence of any prison proceedings, whispers have inevitably surfaced that Fattorini’s mother and father, blindsided by their daughter’s drug use, are merely in search of somebody accountable. “Her mother and father—plaintiffs on this motion—understandably are looking for solutions,” Wehbe factors out in a court-filed response to the lawsuit, during which he seeks to be dismissed as a defendant as a result of “imprecise and unsure” claims in opposition to him, amongst different grounds.
Though the lawsuit factors to the excessive ranges of GHB in Fattorini’s blood, a spokesperson for the coroner’s workplace stresses that it wasn’t the GHB alone that killed her: “All three of the medicine [cocaine, alcohol, and GHB] have been contributing elements in her dying.” Equally, the bruises on her legs might have been self-inflicted (“I’ve bruises on my legs too!” Fattorini as soon as tweeted a pal. “Haha. Guess we had fun”). And the coroner’s failure to conduct a rape examination might have been influenced as a lot by the “appropriately positioned” tampon discovered inside Fattorini’s vagina as Maass’s statements.
In Might 2020, Maass filed her response to the lawsuit, claiming the Fattorinis’ selective selection of texts and different “digital communications” from that night time “has created a false narrative, has led to unwarranted hypothesis, conjecture, and has unfairly and dangerously positioned the defendant in a patently false gentle.” An ex-roommate, with whom she fell out final yr, tells ELLE that Maass’s model of occasions is “believable” primarily based on her hard-partying way of life. “The story of [how] she didn’t discover [Fattorini] till the following afternoon was very potential,” says the roommate, explaining it wasn’t uncommon for Maass to sleep in till 4 p.m. after a late night time out.
Maass and Merriman, who share a lawyer, declined ELLE’s requests for an interview, as did Wehbe and Castro. Nevertheless, within the assertion posted to his web site, Wehbe wrote, “I wish to make it very clear that I didn’t give any unlawful substances to Kim,” and apologized for the “inappropriate, hurtful, and disrespectful” textual content messages he despatched that night time. A spokesperson for Tao Group Hospitality, which owns The Spotlight Room, tells ELLE by way of e mail: “Our highest precedence is to offer a secure setting for all our friends. We’re saddened by Kimberly’s passing and would all the time cooperate with legislation enforcement in any such matter, however haven’t been contacted relating to these allegations.”
In April, after the Fattorinis’ lawsuit went viral on social media, a petition titled “Take away Eli Wehbe as accomplice from Warwick L.A. and all different nightlife institutions” appeared on-line. Warwick (which declined to remark) launched a imprecise assertion on Instagram Tales distancing itself from Wehbe: “A lawsuit relating to this incident has named an affiliate of our institution. We’ve got since ended our relationship with this particular person.” A spokesperson for Tao tells ELLE that Wehbe “ceased working as an unbiased contractor for The Spotlight Room nicely earlier than these allegations got here to gentle.”
Following the outcry online prompted by the lawsuit, the women of clubland are pushing for reform, led by the female-fronted event company VIPER by KCH. In July, VIPER launched a nightlife safety initiative backed by some of L.A.’s hippest clubs—including both Warwick and Tao—which includes sexual harassment training for staff, renewed efforts to counteract drug use, and the establishment of an advisory board for the industry. Although any change will come too late for their daughter, there is hope that the Fattorinis’ lawsuit, which is due to be heard in January 2021, will make nightclubs safer places for the women who continue to work and play there.
What is perhaps most revealing about Fattorini’s death is that she was no ingenue. Yet despite being a veteran of Hollywood nightlife, she still ended up as its victim. “What happened to that poor girl Kim could have happened to literally anyone,” Kirstina Colonna says. “It’s just that she was the unfortunate one.”
This story appears in the November 2020 issue.