Beverly Hills Police: Case Closed On Publicist Ronni Chasen’s Murder
BEVERLY HILLS (AP)— An ex-con acted alone in gunning down Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen during a botched robbery, ending speculation that he may have conspired with someone to kill her, police said.
Police Chief David Snowden told The Associated Press that Harold Martin Smith, a career criminal, killed Chasen last November as she attempted to make a turn at an intersection.
Snowden said the case was solved, although it will be a couple of more weeks before it is formally closed.
Chasen, 64, was shot multiple times in the chest as she drove her Mercedes-Benz through Beverly Hills after the premiere of the movie “Burlesque.”
Snowden added Thursday there was no conspiracy to kill Chasen. Speculation about possible motives bubbled after the killing and ranged from road rage to a gang initiation killing.
The popular theory whispered around Hollywood was that Chasen was targeted by a hit man, but a tip to the show “America’s Most Wanted” led detectives to Smith.
Smith, 43, killed himself when police arrived to a Hollywood apartment building to question him.
Chasen was an influential behind-the-scenes player in Hollywood with a long track record in promoting films such as “Driving Miss Daisy,” “On Golden Pond” and the sequel to “Wall Street” and their stars for Oscars.
Snowden’s comments came after he first spoke to the Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday and said a final ballistics report showed Smith fatally shot Chasen.
Police believe Smith, who had a rap sheet dating back at least 25 years, rode a bicycle and tried to rob Chasen. Nothing was stolen from Chasen, most likely because she tried to get away as she was being shot.
Investigators have portrayed Smith as a desperate man with little going for him at the time of the shooting. Smith told neighbors at the apartment building where he shot himself that he would never return to prison.
Court documents show Smith was a double felon who had been convicted twice of burglary and most recently had been released from prison in 2007 after serving time for robbery.
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