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Police: Ex-con acted alone in publicist slaying
BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF. (AP) - A Hollywood publicist was gunned down by an ex-con on a bicycle in a robbery gone awry as she drove home from a movie premiere last month, police said they believed Wednesday after reviewing ballistics tests.
The major break in the investigation came as tests linked the gun Harold Martin Smith used to commit suicide with bullets that killed Ronni Chasen.
It came a week after Smith killed himself in the lobby of a seedy apartment building as investigators acting on a tip tried to question him.
“We believe that Mr. Smith acted alone. We don’t believe it was a professional hit,” said Beverly Hills Police Chief David Snowden.
Chasen was shot multiple times in the chest Nov.16 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.”
Police said the 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 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.
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