Police: Chasen Murder Was a ‘Robbery Gone Bad’

By Rex Weiner

Published December 09, 2010, issue of December 17, 2010.

Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen was shot to death in her new Mercedes sedan on a quiet Beverly Hills street by a bicycle-riding transient in what police said they suspect was a bungled robbery attempt in a random act of violence.

In a press conference on Wednesday, BHPD Chief David Snowden said preliminary ballistics tests conducted by the L.A . County Sheriff’s Department crime lab matched the bullets recovered from Chasen’s body with the gun used by Harold Martin Smith to commit suicide when he was confronted by police in the lobby of a Hollywood apartment building on December 1. Police were acting on a tip when they approached Smith and said they wanted to question him.

Chasen’s murder has transfixed the entertainment industry since she was discovered in her crashed car shortly after midnight on November 16, dying from multiple gunshot wounds. Speculation swirling around her death advanced a rash of reasons for the slaying, from an organized crime hit to road rage. The high-profile public relations maven was returning from the glittering premiere of the movie “Burlesque,” which features a soundtrack by Diane Warren, one of many film composers whom Chasen represented.

With a long criminal record of arrests and prison time, Smith seems to have existed on a stark plane far different from Chasen’s world of golden Oscars and the red carpet; only the remotest chance of time and place brought them together. A BHBD spokesman said, “We believe that his mode of transportation was by bicycle. This was a random act of violence. With Mr. Smith’s background, we believe it was most likely a robbery gone bad.”

Contact Rex Weiner at feedback@forward.com



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