Publicist's murder "no conspiracy": police

Wed Jan 19, 2011 7:47pm EST
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By Daniel Miller

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The November 16 drive-by shooting of Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen has been solved and there's no conspiracy, says the police chief of Beverly Hills.

David Snowden told The Hollywood Reporter that Harold Martin Smith, an unemployed felon who killed himself December 1 before police could question him, acted alone in shooting Chasen. Snowden said that the final ballistics report confirms the gun used in Smith's suicide and Chasen's murder is the same weapon.

"That man is the man that shot her, there is no conspiracy, nothing else was involved," Snowden said. "I know a lot of people don't like to see it end like that -- they'd rather have something more dramatic, but that's just the way it is. The facts are the facts."

Snowden confirmed some details of the case that were first outlined by police officials at a December 8 press conference. He said it is believed that Smith used a bicycle to get to and from the scene of the crime. It is believed that Smith shot Chasen, 64, in an attempted robbery as she was driving in her Mercedes through the wealthy enclave.

"There is no additional evidence to review," Snowden said.

Snowden declined to offer a detailed summary of detectives' casework. He said the case would be formally closed in about a week, once paperwork is completed, and a press statement will be released. He said the police had essentially considered the case solved at the time of the press conference.

However, it was noted at the time that the police were still waiting on the results of a final ballistics report, and Detective Mike Publicker said at the time that the investigation was 60 to 70 percent complete.

"That was a bad choice of words, what he meant to say was that it was 70 percent closed," Snowden said.

Since the press conference, the police have offered no significant update on the case, which garnered national attention as speculation about the nature of the shooting ran rampant. Several of Chasen's friends and colleagues have publicly and privately questioned the police's explanation of the incident and Smith's role in the slaying.

Chasen was killed soon after midnight on November 16 while driving home from an after-party for the premiere of "Burlesque." After being shot several times, she crashed her black Mercedes-Benz coupe into a light pole on Whittier Boulevard at Sunset Boulevard at about 12:27 a.m. Residents discovered her slumped over in the vehicle; her purse was not taken from the car. She was transported to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead at 1:12 a.m.