A man has been charged with murder following a fire which broke out on Tuesday morning at famous Los Angeles commercial dungeon and fetish party venue Passive Arts Studios.
Firefighters who attended the blaze at the building, on La Cienaga Boulevard in the city of Lennox, near LAX airport, found a man’s body in the ashes. The body was subsequently identified as that of Passive Arts owner John Lavine.
David Edward Albert, 53, was arrested at the scene by deputies from the LA County Sheriff’s Department after being found hiding in bushes across the road from the fire. Albert, who was bleeding, claimed to have been hit by a car, but the officers didn’t believe him.
Further investigation revealed that Albert was a former employee of Passive Arts who had allegedly been fired from the establishment only a week earlier. He quickly became the prime suspect for the murder of Lavine, who had been shot several times in the head.
Albert, of Simi Valley, was charged on Thursday with murder, arson and animal cruelty, the latter charge arising from the death of the studio owner's dog, which was also found after the fire.
Passive Arts Studios, described as America’s largest, most elegant and best-equipped dungeon, was about to celebrate the first phase of an ambitious expansion programme when the tragedy occurred.
Founded in Hollywood in 1974, it claims to have been the first commercial BDSM establishment in the USA to openly advertise its services. In 2000 it moved to the current 7,000 sq ft warehouse location in Lennox.
As well as offering BDSM sessions and opening its movie set-like interiors to various TV shows, the venue has played host to numerous community events featuring the likes of Midori and Fakir Musafar.
On Saturday nights, the venue has been regularly hosting three popular fetish clubs nights — Time Warp, Club Discipline and The Garden of Heathers.
This Saturday night (July 31), it was due to stage the grand opening of Passive Arts Emporium, “an upscale store featuring the finest furniture and toys available for sale”.
The Emporium was designed as part of a major expansion of Passive Arts following the acquisition of a 4,000 sq ft building next to the existing premises.
When finished, the expanded Passive Arts would have covered more than 11,000 sq ft with parking for over 60 cars, an enclosed patio and more than a dozen themed rooms.
Since Tuesday’s tragedy — the latest in a series that has hit the US BDSM community in recent weeks — the Passive Arts website has been temporarily closed, and the status of its MySpace page, though still online, has been changed from public to private.
Links to both sites and our reports on other recent deaths that have hit the US fetish community can be found below.