Police link ex-convict to death of Hollywood publicist

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (BestGrowthStock) – Police investigating the slaying of a leading Hollywood publicist said on Wednesday that lab tests show a match between the presumed murder weapon and the gun a suspect used to kill himself when officers approached him.

Police also said they believed that publicist Ronni Chasen, 64, was likely the victim of an aborted robbery when she was shot to death on November 16 as she drove through Beverly Hills after attending a gala premiere of the movie “Burlesque.”

Beverly Hills police chief Dave Snowden said ballistics tests show the gun used in Chasen’s killing is a “preliminary match” for the one used by former convict Harold Martin Smith to shoot himself at his apartment on Dec 1.

“I will tell you that we believe Mr. Smith acted alone,” Snowden said. “We don’t believe it was a professional hit.”

Chasen’s killing became a Hollywood murder mystery as many who knew the publicist wondered why she would have been targeted in such a violent death.

Detectives now believe Chasen’s killing was “most likely a robbery gone bad,” said police Sgt. Michael Publicker, the lead investigator in the case.

Publicker said it appears Smith was on a bicycle when he tried to rob Chasen and that he may have approached her while they were stopped at an intersection. Chasen was driving a Mercedes-Benz that night, according to media reports.

“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.

Police had been alerted about Smith’s possible involvement in the case by the television show “America’s Most Wanted,” which receives tips from members of the public.

Officers went to Smith’s apartment building on December 1 to question him about the Chasen shooting, but he shot himself in the head as they approached.

Chasen represented such celebrities as songwriter and musician T-Bone Burnet, and Richard Zanuck, producer of films including “Alice in Wonderland” and “Yes Man.”

Police said the investigation is mostly complete, but that it could take two weeks for final ballistic test results to come back with a definite match on the gun.

(Editing by Steve Gorman and Peter Bohanx)

Police link ex-convict to death of Hollywood publicist