Hollywood may not believe it. (Still Questions About Ronni Chasen Murder). But after almost five months of examining more than 150,000 pieces of evidence, the Beverly Hills Police Department has closed its investigation into last year’s murder of Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen, who was gunned down in her car on a Beverly Hills street Nov. 16 after attending an afterparty for the premiere of Burlesque. The Beverly Hills Courier reports today that police said Harold Martin Smith shot Chasen several times in the chest in a failed robbery attempt; Smith used the same gun to kill himself Dec. 1 as police closed in on him at an apartment complex in a seedy part of Los Angeles.
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
It didn’t take long, just a coupla hours, for Fox’s America’s Most Wanted TV show to pat itself on the back tonight for its pivotal role in helping solve the Ronni Chasen murder. The weekly series will air what it’s calling a “case update” this Saturday after profiling the murder back on a November 20th broadcast. Sounds like it coordinated the timing with the Beverly Hills Police Department. BHPD were acting on a tip from an anonymous AMW viewer when police investigators went to Harold Martin Smith’s Harvey Apartments where he shot and killed himself with what’s now known as the gun that also murdered Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen. “I’m very proud that this loyal AMW viewer had the guts to call our hotline to help solve this case,” said AMW host John Walsh in a statement. “After 23 years on the air, it reconfirms my belief that an average person can make a difference. It’s my hope that the Chasen family will now have some answers.” AMW is produced by STF Productions. John Walsh is also executive producer, and Steve Katz is co-executive producer.
Police Now Say Ronni Chasen Was “Victim Of Random Act Of Violence” By Desperate Robber On Bicycle; Tipster To ‘America’s Most Wanted’ Helped Solve Murder
BREAKING NEWS!… UPDATE WITH MORE DETAILS: As Deadline told you last week, that down and out “person of interest” Harold Martin Smith who killed himself at the Harvey Apartments in a seedy part of Los Angeles was likely the shooter of Hollywood film publicist Ronni Chasen as she was driving home from a movie premiere around 12:30 AM on November 16th. A firearms lab made that discovery and delivered the ballistic report just this afternoon, according to Beverly Hills Police department Chief Dave Snowden giving his first press conference about the murder. “The gun used to shoot Ms. Chasen is the same gun used by Harold Martin Smith to commit suicide,” Snowden said, later describing it as a “match”. “We believe that Mr. Smith acted alone. We don’t believe it was a professional hit. And it’s an open and active investigation.” Snowden added that his BHPD detectives “are going to continue this investigation until we can call you again out here and tell you with definitive proof who exactly the person who shot Ronnie Chasen was. And we do believe that we have a pretty good lead on this guy.”
A detective at the same press conference, BHPD’s Sgt Mike Publicker, echoed that Smith acted alone and he did not know the Hollywood publicist. Publicker said a lot of media reports filled with elaborate backstories were “not accurate” and went …
Hollywood journalist Allison Hope Weiner has an update on the Ronni Chasen murder case and emails Deadline the following details:
A police source close to the investigation into the murder of Ronni Chasen says that police have a fairly good idea as to who employed a Hollywood hit man to shoot the longtime publicist. Although the alleged hit man killed himself last night before police could take him into custody, authorities are still making progress in their investigation of Chasen’s murder. Several sources confirm that police have a working theory that Chasen’s murder was related to a business deal gone bad.
First Police Action In Ronni Chasen Murder Results In Another Death: As a detective said last night if the probe into popular publicist Ronni Chasen’s slaying was concluded after last night’s suicide of the person of interest: ”It’s not over yet.” Police served a search warrant on a man at the Harvey Apartments in a seedy part of Los Angeles at 5640 Santa Monica Boulevard between N Wilton and Western Ave near Hollywood. [UPDATE: The Beverly Hills Courier just reported he's been identified as Harold Smith.] He’d been under police surveillance in connection with the case and fatally shot himself after 6 PM with his handgun own just as the police were approaching in the lobby. He died of a “self-inflicted” gunshot and was pronounced dead at the scene. Chasen, 64, was reportedly shot five …
BREAKING NEWS… 5TH UPDATE & WRITETHRU: “It’s not over yet,” said a detective tonight when asked if the investigation into popular Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen’s slaying was concluded after tonight’s suicide. At an impromptu cops’ news conference, these details were confirmed: Beverly Hills Police at 5:30 PM went to serve a search warrant on a man at the Harvey Apartments in a seedy part of Los Angeles at 5640 Santa Monica Boulevard between N Wilton and Western Ave near Hollywood. He’d been under police surveillance in connection with the case. But the unidentified “person of interest” — as he was called by detectives tonight at the press conference — had a handgun and fatally shot himself after 6 PM just as the police were approaching in the lobby. He died of a “self-inflicted” gunshot and was pronounced dead at the scene. Right now there is a massive police and press presence at the Harvey Apartments because this is the first public development related to the case that has intense interest in Hollywood and beyond. (See Hollywood journalist Allison Hope Weiner’s reporting for Deadline below.)
Earlier this evening, all the BHPD will say officially was this: “At the time of the shooting, BHPD Detectives were on scene conducting a follow-up investigation. There were no other injuries related to the incident. Due to the fact that this is an ongoing investigation, there are no further details available at this time”. The Los Angeles Times reported that ”detectives received information suggesting the man would be in his apartment this evening. When police approached the man at the lobby of the apartment complex, he backed up and refused their orders to raise his hands. He then pulled out a pistol and shot himself in the head, the sources said. He was declared dead at at the scene.”
Hollywood journalist Allison Hope Weiner has been following the Ronni Chase murder case and emails Deadline the following details:
UPDATE: Another source close to the investigation noted that the police are currently searching the Harvey Apartments where tonight’s shooting occurred. My source says that “If the subject turns out to have what police are looking for in his room, they can rule out that this was a mob hit.”
My police source stated that it’s not clear that Chasen knew her shooter, only that she “may have known her shooter.” The important information here is that if someone is being surprised by a shooter, they’d be shot through the shoulder or the back and then the bullet would enter the chest. It’s significant that Chasen was shot on the right breast plate in a cluster, indicating that she’d turned towards her shooter. Something occurred that prompted her to turn towards her shooter.
The police source added that because the shooter had such a steady hand, it indicated that they were an expert in firearms. So police were checking Chasen’s computer information against local shooting ranges.
A police source familiar with the Ronnie Chasen murder investigation revealed to me earlier this evening that authorities were on their way to “pick-up a suspect in the Ronnie Chasen murder.” A spokesman for the Beverly Hills Police Department, Sergeant Sean Davis, told me that the man who shot and killed himself this evening was merely a “subject” in the follow-up probe of the Chasen slaying.
One air bag deployed and her window was up and the other window shot out by bullet. The source noted that Chasen was still alive after hit and her hands were tightly wrapped around the steering wheel. The current theory is that, after Chasen was shot, she tried to get away and then lost consciousness and her foot slipped off the brake and her car went into a pole.
The police source noted that Ms. Chasen was not randomly targeted and that they’re convinced that her murder was not gang-related.
Palm Springs, CA (November 17, 2010) – The Palm Springs International Awards Gala and Film Festival has issued a reward of $100,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the murder of Ronni Chasen, who was shot and killed in the early hours on Tuesday, November 16, 2010.
Plans have been formalized for a gathering tonight in New York to celebrate the life of Ronni Chasen. Friends and colleagues of the beloved publicist are being invited to Michael’s at 24 W 55th Street from 6-8 PM to have a drink in her honor. Last night, I attended a DGA screening of Ed Zwick’s Love and Other Drugs. At a post-screening party at Tomate, the shock over her death dominated the conversation. She was part of the Oscar push on many of this year’s films, including that one. If there are any questions about tonight, call Scott Rudin’s office.
The following obituary was written by her publicity firm:
Los Angeles, CA (November 16, 2010) — Tributes have been pouring in from the elite of the entertainment and media arenas for Ronni Chasen, one of the industry’s preeminent press agents, who was tragically killed in the early morning hours of November 16, 2010. A funeral service for Ronni Chasen will be held on Sunday, November 21, at 11:00 a.m. at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary, located at 6001 West Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90045.
Over the course of her remarkable, decades-long career, Ronni Chasen earned the respect and admiration of her colleagues and the loyalty of her clients, to whom she was passionately devoted. Her work was an integral part of her life, and her love for her profession showed in her zeal for everything she did. Bringing more than 35 years of experience to bear, she approached her job with an extraordinary blend of old-school public relations and cutting-edge marketing. Her singular enthusiasm and indefatigable spirit endeared her to everyone with whom she worked, and it was common knowledge in the industry that it was impossible to say “no” to
Of all my time in this business I can think of no one more dedicated to her clients, more doggedly determined to help them achieve their goals. In many ways, Ronni always reminded me of a sort of lost breed of press agent and she would always bend over backwards to help with a story. She also had the driest, most acerbic sense of humor. Yes she was no bullshit and very straightforward. She was persistent, yes, but also knew when to hold back. This is unbelievable to think I won’t be seeing her anymore. There was barely an event, an awards show, a premiere, a party, or any number of press things where I didn’t see her. The last was the Governors Awards Saturday. Recently we met in the Polo Lounge with her longtime client Dick Zanuck. She told me she couldn’t think of three other times in the decades she had been working with him that he agreed to an interview like that. And then when the story ran, she emailed me from Paris where she was travelling to say he really liked it.
She always made me feel special. As a film …
SHOCKER! Oscar Publicist Ronni Chasen Shot And Killed In Beverly Hills Driving Back From ‘Burlesque’ Premiere In Hollywood
3RD & 4TH UPDATE, 12 PM: Shock and dismay and in some cases tears swept Hollywood this morning when news spread that popular Oscar publicist Ronni Chasen had been the tragic victim of violence around midnight in the Sunset and Whittier area of Beverly Hills. Here’s more intel about the 64-year-old’s last hours: The Oscar campaign and holiday movie season got fully underway at the start of this week. She was lobbying media to write positive articles promoting Academy Award nominations for Michael Douglas in the Supporting Actor category for Twentieth Century Fox’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and for Walt Disney Studios’ Alice In Wonderland 3D in the Best Picture category. Both were the subject of a combination business and social phone call from her office with Deadline editor-in-chief Nikki Finke from 5:30 PM through 6:30 PM. Then the Oscar publicist drove her late model black Mercedes Benz E350 to Sony Pictures Entertainment/Screen Gem’s premiere of the movie Burlesque at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. Then she attended the after-party at Drai’s in the W Hotel. ”“We were all together last night, and Ronni was having the best time doing what she enjoyed most,” recalls producer Donald De Line. ”When we all said goodbye last night, little did we know it would be our last. I am in shock; that this could happen is incomprehensible. Only a few hours ago we were celebrating. I’m glad she was happy last night and that she was in all her glory.”
She left the party and drove down Sunset Blvd through West Hollywood and just at the start of Beverly Hills (most likely heading towards her home in Westwood) when she was shot and killed sometime around midnight. Chasen’s friends say she made a call to her office about 8 minutes before the gunfire to put a reminder on her office voicemail. “She was not feeling in danger,” a source said. Beverly Hills police at 12:28 AM received information regarding shots that were heard in the area of Sunset and Whittier. Shortly after, Ronni’s car was discovered in a collision with a lightpole in the same area and she was found inside with multiple gunshot wounds to her chest. Police sources say Ronni’s car window was broken but nothing was taken from her purse. She was transported from the scene by paramedics and pronounced dead at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. This reaction just came in from Amy Pascal, Co-Chairman of Sony Pictures which hosted the Burlesque premiere that turned out to be Chasen’s last Hollywood event: “Ronni was a dear friend and cherished member of our community. She was at our premiere last night and so full of her trademark energy and love of life. We are heartbroken, shocked and completely devastated.”
2ND UPDATE: The Beverly Hills police have issued this statement about Ronni Chasen’s murder, now confirmed by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office: “At approximately 12:28 AM, Beverly Hills officers received information regarding shots that were heard in the area of Sunset and Whittier. Shortly after, a collision was reported in the same area. Units arrived in the area and discovered, a newer black Mercedes Benz E350 involved in a solo crash with a lightpole. The lone female occupant was located in the vehicle with apparent multiple gunshot wounds to her chest. Beverly Hills paramedics transported her to a local hospital, where she was later pronounced deceased. The investigation is in the preliminary stages, and no further information is available. Also, there is no suspect information or motive at this time.”
UPDATE 9:45 AM: Nikki Finke has confirmed that Ronni Chasen was “shot and killed” last night, according to Beverly Hills police. Nikki spoke to her at 5:30 last night. Ronni was promoting Michael Douglas for Best Supporting Actor for Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, as well as Alice In Wonderland 3D for Best Picture. A friend said that, after leaving the office, Ronni attended the premiere of the Sony Pictures/Screen Gems film Burlesque. A longtime Rogers & Cowan senior movie publicist, spanning decades, Chasen went out on her own, establishing Chasen & Company Publicity around 1991. She had a thriving business, especially at awards time, representing directors, writers, musicians, actors, and films.