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Police: Gunman Acted Alone In Chasen Murder

Gun used in suicide apparently linked to ex-con
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Harold Smith killed himself as police closed in on him on Dec. 4, 2010. (Jackson County Sheriff's Office/AP)

Harold Smith killed himself as police closed in on him on Dec. 4, 2010. (Jackson County Sheriff’s Office/AP)

BEVERLY HILLS (CBS/AP) — The gun recovered from a man who committed suicide at a Hollywood apartment building appears to match the one used to kill publicist Ronni Chasen, Beverly Hills police said Wednesday, but they stopped short of actually concluding he was the one who carried out the slaying.

Harold Martin Smith, 43, committed suicide Dec. 1 in the lobby of the Harvey Apartments as Beverly Hills police approached him to discuss the Chasen murder. Police said a tip from the television show “America’s Most Wanted” led them to Smith, and investigators labeled him a “person of interest” in the case.

Although preliminary ballistics test confirmed that Smith’s gun appeared to match the one used in Chasen’s killing, Beverly Hills detectives planned to continue investigating to determine whether Smith killed her.

“They’re going to continue this investigation until we can call you again out here and tell you with definitive proof who exactly the person that shot Ronni…Chasen was, and we do believe at this point that we have a
pretty good lead on this guy,” Beverly Hills Police Chief David Snowden told reporters.

Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer remembers Chasen

But while Snowden and the lead detective in the case, Sgt. Mike Publicker, would not officially identify Smith is the killer, they said the evidence appeared to point in his direction.

“Through the interviews and the information we received, that leads us to believe he was at a desperate point in his life and was reaching out and doing desperate measures,” Publicker said. “Preliminarily we believe it was a random act, and we believe Mrs. Chasen was going to be the victim of a
robbery.”

At least one resident of the Harvey Apartments, in the 5600 block of Santa Monica Boulevard, said she had heard Smith brag about killing the publicist.

Beverly Hills police said Tuesday they asked the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to conduct ballistics tests on the gun Smith used to kill himself to determine if there was any connection to Chasen’s killing. Snowden said the preliminary results of those tests came in this morning.

Snowden said more detailed tests on the weapon would be conducted in the coming weeks.

Chasen, 64, was shot five times in the chest as she drove her Mercedes-Benz near Sunset Boulevard and Whittier Drive in the early morning hours of Nov. 16. Chasen, a top entertainment-industry publicist, had just attended the gala premiere of the film “Burlesque.” After she was shot, Chasen’s Mercedes crashed into a light pole, and Chasen was found slumped over the steering wheel.

Police have said previously it was unknown whether Smith actually had any involvement with the Chasen killing. Other neighbors at the Harvey Apartments told reporters Smith claimed he was expecting a $10,000 payoff, either from a recent job or a lawsuit. They also said Smith bragged that he would do what it took to avoid going back to prison.

Smith had a lengthy criminal record, with crimes ranging from drug possession to disturbing the peace to robbery.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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