Police: Ex-con Acted Alone in Publicist SlayingA transient ex-convict riding around Beverly Hills on a bicycle killed a Hollywood publicist as she drove home from a movie premiere in what police said Wednesday was a robbery gone bad.
By: Associated Press,
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — A transient ex-convict riding around Beverly Hills on a bicycle killed a Hollywood publicist as she drove home from a movie premiere in what police said Wednesday was a robbery gone bad.
The disclosure marked a major break in the investigation that has baffled detectives for nearly a month and stunned Hollywood after Ronni Chasen was gunned down in November.
It came a week after suspected gunman Harold Martin Smith killed himself in the lobby of a seedy apartment building as investigators acting on a tip closed in on him.
Beverly Hills Police Chief David Snowden said the gun used by Smith to commit suicide appears to have been used to kill Chasen.
"We believe that Mr. Smith acted alone. We don't believe it was a professional hit," he said.
Chasen was shot multiple times in the chest Nov. 20 as she drove through Beverly Hills while heading home after the premiere of the movie "Burlesque."
Sgt. Mike Publicker said investigators believe Smith, riding a bicycle, tried to rob Chasen as she waited to turn left from Sunset Boulevard.
"This was a random act of violence, with Mr. Smith's background, we believe that it was most likely a robbery gone bad at this time," he said.
"Through the interviews and the information we received, that leads us to believe that he was at a desperate point in his life, and was reaching out and doing desperate measures," Publicker added.
Police stressed their investigation was continuing.
Chasen, 64, 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.
Detectives were led to Smith by an anonymous tip to "America's Most Wanted" by a person who might be eligible for a $125,000 reward.
Steve Katz, a co-executive producer of the TV show, said staff members notified the tipster about the latest developments.
"When he heard that his tip helped resolve this case, he was very emotional," Katz said. "This is really a perfect example of how an average person can make a difference."
Police said it didn't appear that Chasen knew Smith or that any of her property had been taken. No shell casings were found at the scene, and investigators did not reveal if there was any video evidence of the attack.
Smith, 43, had a rap sheet dating back at least 25 years and had been described by police as a "person of interest" after bragging to acquaintances that he killed Chasen.
Documents obtained by The Associated Press revealed Smith was a two-strike felon who had been convicted twice of burglary and most recently had been released from prison in 2007 after serving time for robbery.
Speculation about the motive for the killing of Chasen initially included road rage, a professional hit or gang-initiation killing.
Citing preliminary results of an autopsy first reported by KTTV, The Associated Press reported Monday that Smith's gun likely did not match the one used to kill Chasen.
The TV station reported Chasen appeared to have been killed by 9 mm hollow-point bullets. Snowden later said the preliminary autopsy records were erroneous.