Police say missing Hollywood executive was likely murdered

Thu Mar 14, 2013 9:16pm EDT
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By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Detectives have uncovered evidence that a Hollywood studio executive who mysteriously vanished 10 months ago was murdered, even though they have yet to find his body, law enforcement officials said on Thursday.

Gavin Smith, a 57-year-old film distribution executive for 20th Century Fox, was last seen on the night of May 1, 2012, driving in his black Mercedes Benz away from a friend's house in Oak Park, northwest of Los Angeles.

Authorities issued a missing person bulletin for Smith, also known for playing on UCLA's 1975 national championship basketball team under legendary coach John Wooden, and asked for the public's help in finding him.

But the discovery of Smith's car in a storage facility in February led to a break in the case, Los Angeles County Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said.

"This is a significant change in this case," Whitmore said. "The fact that they found the car, the condition of the car. Preliminarily, they believe Gavin Smith was murdered. The evidence is pretty sound."

Whitmore said detectives had also established what they believe was the motive for Smith's slaying, but he declined to discuss it further.

"They pretty much know what's going on," he said.

Police following a tip recovered the car in Simi Valley, about 20 miles by freeway from the unidentified friend's home in Oak Park. Smith's body has not been recovered.   Continued...

Gavin Smith, 57, a 20th Century Fox distribution executive is shown in this undated photograph released by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. REUTERS/Courtesy Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department/Handout