- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 16, 2010

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF. (AP) - Investigators seized computers Tuesday from the business of a prominent Hollywood publicist who was shot to death in her car in Beverly Hills hours after attending a movie premiere.

Ronni Chasen, 64, who promoted the Academy Award-winning movie “Driving Miss Daisy” and other major films, was shot several times in the chest shortly before 12:30 a.m., a police statement said. Her Mercedes-Benz E350 sedan crashed into a light pole near Sunset Boulevard.

Police hauled the computers from her firm, Chasen and Co., about 12 hours after the attack. The reason for the seizure was unclear.

Police said they had not yet determined a motive or identified a suspect. No reports of threats against Chasen or her firm had been received, police Sgt. Lincoln Hoshino said.

Calls and e-mails to company representatives were not immediately returned.

Fellow publicist Howard Bragman called Chasen’s shooting death bizarre.

“She wasn’t a shady character,” he said. “It’s a small community and she was one of the fixtures in it.”

Yellow police tape was stretched between two trees to mark the crime scene on a grassy parkway along a two-lane street that winds among stately homes south of Sunset. An orange cone marked the spot where the light post had stood, and a small bouquet of yellow and red flowers was next to the curb.

Bradley Turell, a longtime colleague of Chasen, came to the site in the serene neighborhood to mourn his friend.

Ronni was a positive force of nature,” he said. “She was just great at what she did, a supreme sales person and a great lady.”

Nahid Shekarchain, who lives near the scene of the shooting, told the Los Angeles Times she heard at least three gunshots sometime after midnight then found Chasen in the car with blood on her chest and gushing from her nose. The front passenger’s window had been shattered.

The driver was breathing heavily and did not respond, Shekarchain said.

The killing took place after Chasen attended the premiere of the movie “Burlesque,” which she had a hand in promoting.

Chasen was involved in Hollywood publicity since the 1970s, working on campaigns for movies and artists. She promoted “On Golden Pond,” which won Academy Awards for best actor, actress and screenplay in 1981.

She worked with a number of music clients in recent years, including Janet Jackson, composer Hans Zimmer, producer Glen Ballard and Diane Warren, who wrote the song “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me,” which Cher sings in the new movie “Burlesque.”

At the time of her death, Chasen was working for Screen Gems on a campaign to promote the soundtrack of “Burlesque” for an Oscar nomination, according to the trade publication Variety.

Chasen “was at our premiere last night and so full of her trademark energy and love of life,” said Amy Pascal, co-chair of Screen Gems owner Sony Pictures. “We are heartbroken, shocked and completely devastated.”

Chasen also was working with 20th Century Fox on a supporting actor Oscar campaign for Michael Douglas in “Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps,” according to Allen Berry, a publicist for the actor.

Chasen’s other clients included movie producers Irwin Winkler and Richard D. Zanuck.

Stephen Jaffe, a crisis management consultant, said he and his wife, actress Susan Blakely, knew Chasen for at least 25 years. The Hollywood awards season was always a busy time for Chasen, he said.

“She would always call us this time of year to come to really incredible events,” he said, explaining Chasen would often arrange screenings followed by intimate gatherings of filmmakers and guests.

“This was an absolutely shocking and inexplicable event that has hurt us,” Jaffe said of the shooting.

Bragman said Chasen had a unique way of doing business.

“She was not a woman who was a slave to the fashion of the day,” he said. She played to her own vision and integrity. She was very bright, very successful.”


AP entertainment writers Derrik Lang and Anthony McCartney contributed to this report.

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