Police: Chasen Murder Was a ‘Robbery Gone Bad’

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

Written by

Rex Weiner

Rex Weiner is a Brooklyn-born, third-generation journalist who from 1992 to 1997 covered the entertainment industry as a staff reporter for Daily Variety, where his column, Lost and Found, appeared weekly. His articles have appeared in Vanity Fair, the Los Angeles Times Sunday magazine, The New Yorker, The New York Observer and LA Weekly, and he contributes regularly to Rolling Stone Italia. His screenwriting credits include “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane” (20th Century Fox), and he was one of the first writers of the TV series “Miami Vice.” He is a founding editor of High Times magazine and a co-author of The Woodstock Census (Viking, 1979), one of the key texts analyzing the impact of the ’60s generation on American society. He is currently based in Los Angeles and in the town of Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico, where his fluent Spanish and capacity for tequila come in handy. He can be reached at rexweiner@forward.com.

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Police: Chasen Murder Was a ‘Robbery Gone Bad’

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