Hollywood journalist Allison Hope Weiner has an update on the Ronni Chasen murder case and emails Deadline the following details:
The Beverly Hills police held a press conference on Wednesday stating that they believe that Howard Martin Smith, a career criminal who served time in state prison, shot and killed Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen. Police announced that lab tests revealed a preliminary match between the murder weapon presumed to have killed publicist Ronni Chasen and the gun used by Howard Smith to kill himself. (Smith committed suicide last week before he could be questioned by law enforcement.) The Beverly Hills Police stated that Smith acted alone in killing Chasen and police don’t believe the murder was a professional hit, but rather a “robbery gone bad.” The police theory is that Smith was on his bicycle and intended to rob Chasen, but she sped off after he shot her. After listening to the details of the press conference, one of my police sources familiar with the investigation questioned the credibility of the investigation and quipped, “If I’m murdered and you find my body in Beverly Hills, please drag my body to LAPD. Even if you have to leave a bloody trail.”
Q: How did the shooter come and go from the scene of the crime on a bicycle without being spotted?
A: “You can not tell me that a black man riding around on a bicycle at midnight in Beverly Hills did not get stopped at one time by the police,” notes the police source with knowledge of the investigation. According to Mapquest, the distance from the 5600 block of Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles to the 800 block of Whittier Drive in Beverly Hills is almost seven miles. The source also questions why this guy who was so allegedly desperate for money bothered to bike all the way to Beverly Hills to rob someone in a car when he can do the same thing closer to home? It’s been reported that neighbors heard the gunshots, called 911, and arrived at the murder scene before Chasen took her last breath. So how did Smith manage to bike down Sunset or Whittier without being spotted by either witnesses or the police? Especially when this part of Beverly Hills has considerable traffic late at night because of its proximity to the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Q: How did the shooter aim so deadly while on a bicycle?
A: My police source asks where Smith acquired his shooting expertise. It seems unlikely that he went to the shooting range given that he was having money troubles and was behind on his rent. And how did he manage to shoot so accurately while sitting on a bike? The BHPD stated that a bicycle was found at Smith’s suicide scene and it was taken into custody by the Los Angeles Police Department and will be turned over to BHPD. The fact that the bicycle is still in the LAPD’s possession makes my source wonder whether the BHPD has had an opportunity to examine whether it was even possible for the suspect to have been on his bicycle by the passenger window and shoot directly in the chest. “One would think that they’d have conducted these type of tests before the press conference,” notes the police source.
Q: How did Smith manage to pick up all the shell casings at the murder scene and still get away?
A: Since no shell casings were found at the murder scene, Smith somehow managed to shoot Chasen, pick up all the shell casings, and still bike away without being seen by any witnesses. “So it’s nighttime and it’s dark and they expect me to believe this guy is going to waste time to get off his bike in a nice quiet neighborhood to go and pick up shell casings?” my police source askss. “Those things eject backward. They’re rolling all over the place. I don’t believe a streetwise guy who spent time in state prison just stood there and picked up a shell casing on Whittier boulevard and Sunset and then biked away without being noticed.” The police source also doesn’t understand why, if this was a botched robbery, Smith bothered to stay around and pick up shell casings — but didn’t bother to reach into Chasen’s broken car window and grab her purse.
Q: Why did BHPD say there was a “preliminary” ballistics match?
A: The police stated that preliminary ballistics match showing the gun used to kill Ronni Chasen was the same gun used by Harold Smith to kill himself. My police source asks the public to question what constitutes a preliminary match. “Either it’s a match or it isn’t,” says the source. “There is one test. You need to think of ballistics like DNA. Either it’s your DNA or it’s not.” The source also asks why there was no discussion about where Smith got the gun or ammunition that he used to kill Chasen and himself. “Where the gun came from? How did Smith end up with the gun? Was it used in other crimes? Where did he get those hollow points from? They’re supposed to keep a record of people who buy bullets. Did they check every gun shop in the area to find out the list of who they sold hollow points to? You know they’ve got a list.”
Q: Who is the tipster who contacted America’s Most Wanted?
A: The BHPD on Wednesday stated that if Smith is the shooter, then the person who tipped off America’s Most Wanted will likely get a reward. However, the police source familiar with the investigation wants to know mor. Hs it possible that this tipster knows more about the crime than he’s told police? Have police really had sufficient time to investigate the tipster and whether he had a connection to Smith?
Q: Why hold a press conference when BHPD said the investigation is only “60% to 70%” complete?
A: My police source familiar with the investigation said: “I have a bad feeling that this press conference is going to end up being the defense’s opening statement at trial. The police have a lot of investigating to do before they pronounce that Smith acted alone or that he didn’t have any connection to Ronnie Chasen. They need to find out, who did Smith hang out with?”
Q: If this was simply a random crime, then why did Smith shoot Chasen so many times if he didn’t even know her?
A: The police stated they believe that Ronni Chasen’s murder was a random act of violence and that Smith had no connection to her. However, my police source with knowledge of the investigation still remains unconvinced about the BHPD’s theory of the crime. “This is a not a random homicide or a robbery gone bad. This was personal,” argues the source. “You don’t have a victim of a carjacking or robbery shot multiple times. Look at the statistics. People shoot someone multiple times for maximum effect.” Although the police stated at Wednesday’s press conference that they believed Smith acted alone and that they don’t believe that Chasen’s murder was a professional hit, at least two of my police sources with some knowledge of the investigation don’t buy it. “I don’t believe that this streetwise punk who’s done time in prison agreed to kill someone without at least getting some sort of a down payment. They need to look at where Smith spent his money. When I first heard they were having this press conference, I couldn’t believe it,” adds police source. “And then I realized, ‘Wow, they’re really going to just blame it all on the dead guy.’”