Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Christian Brando — A Hollywood Family Tragedy

"Messenger of Misery"

Marlon Brando's L.A. estate (AP/Wide World)
Marlon Brando's L.A. estate
(AP/Wide World)

With Christian, Dag and Cheyenne all in Southern California, the elements were in place for the tragedy to come. Dag and Cheyenne had been on the mainland a little over a week, and Dag had set up camp in the bungalow's den. He and Cheyenne were not sleeping together.

It was cooler than normal and rainy that May, so the Brando compound up in the hills above Hollywood was especially sheltered by the lush foliage. On the final night of his life, Dag Drollet spent a relaxing evening alone in the den of Marlon's home. Marlon acted as a typical Tahitian host, his relationship with Dag was good, and Marlon believed Drollet was a good influence on his troubled daughter. But Marlon preferred to be left alone.

Christian and Cheyenne went out for dinner that night at the elite Musso & Frank Grill where they had a long discussion about Drollet's violence. Unbeknownst to Christian, the abuse was a figment of her imagination.

Angry with the man who dared break up with her, Cheyenne weaved a tale of domestic assault and mental cruelty. Christian believed her. Cheyenne did not know what her brother would do upon returning home that night, and there are no signs that she intended for Christian to kill her lover. Most likely she was looking for sympathy and support.

"She went off on this bizarre tangent," Christian told the Los Angeles Times later. "She kinda like got me going. I didn't stop to think."

Dag was sitting in his bathrobe and shorts watching television when they returned. It was nearly 11 p.m., and Christian was drunk when he burst into the den to confront his sister's lover. Christian had downed a six-pack of malt liquor and was drinking harder stuff when Cheyenne confessed that her lover was beating her and acting abusive.

Dag Drollet was more than six-and-a-half feet tall and had the well apportioned physique of a fit outdoor laborer. For this reason, the smaller Brando was carrying his .45-caliber revolver for protection when he went to tell off Drollet. The two men had met just hours earlier for the first time, so Christian had no idea what to expect.

"I did not go into that room to kill Dag Drollet," said Christian. "I just wanted to scare him."

Drollet was sitting with his back to Christian and was preparing to roll a cigarette. He held the tobacco pouch in one hand and rolling papers in the other.

"Are you slapping around my sister?" Christian shouted as he burst into the room. "Lookit, don't do that anymore!" he yelled, moving in front of Dag, who was sitting down about to roll a cigarette. He pointed the revolver at Dag's head. Whether Dag said something in return was never known.

Christian later told the court that he was moving to leave the room and still had his arm outstretched when the gun went off and the single slug hit Dag in the head. The entire exchange took a matter of seconds and when it was over, there was nothing Christian could do to save Dag.

"I just sat there and watched the life go out of this guy," he said later.

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