Police: Hollywood publicist killed by lone gunman

An ex-con acted alone in gunning down Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen during a botched robbery, police said Thursday, ending speculation that he may have conspired with someone to kill her.

An ex-con acted alone in gunning down Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen during a botched robbery, police said Thursday, ending speculation that he may have conspired with someone to kill her.

The case against Harold Martin Smith, a career criminal, was concluded, although it will be a couple more weeks before it is formally closed, Beverly Hills Police Chief David Snowden told The Associated Press.

Smith, 43, killed himself Dec. 1 when police arrived at a Hollywood apartment building to question him about the shooting.

Chasen, 64, was shot multiple times in the chest on Nov. 16 as she drove her Mercedes-Benz through Beverly Hills after attending the premiere of the movie "Burlesque."

Speculation about possible motives bubbled after the killing and ranged from road rage to a gang initiation killing.

A popular theory whispered around Hollywood was that Chasen was targeted by a hit man, but a tip to the show "America's Most Wanted" led detectives to Smith.

Snowden said there was no conspiracy.

Many of Chasen's friends initially had difficulty accepting that Smith, a small-time criminal living on the edges of society, could have shot Chasen repeatedly then slipped away without anyone seeing him.

Snowden's comments came after he first spoke to the Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday and said a final ballistics report showed Smith shot Chasen.

Still somewhat skeptical, Chasen's longtime friend, Oscar-nominated songwriter Carol Connors, said she respected the police and would have to accept their conclusion.

"To have something as outrageous and beyond comprehension as this be what it is shows that life is not always what we think it is," she said. "A true tragedy."

A phone message left with Chasen's sister-in-law Cynthia Costas Cohen was not immediately returned.

Chasen was an influential behind-the-scenes player in Hollywood with a long track record in promoting films such as "Driving Miss Daisy," ''On Golden Pond," ''Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" and others, as well as their stars. She also promoted movie soundtracks and songs.

Hours before she was killed, Chasen had been promoting "Burlesque." One of the honorary pallbearers at her funeral, songwriter Diane Warren, won her first Golden Globe last week for "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me" from that movie. Warren dedicated the award to Chasen.

Police believe Smith, who had a rap sheet dating back at least 25 years, rode a bicycle and tried to rob Chasen. Nothing was stolen, most likely because she tried to get away as she was being shot.

Investigators have portrayed Smith as a desperate man with little going for him at the time of the shooting. Smith told neighbors at the apartment building where he shot himself that he would never return to prison.

Court documents show Smith was a double felon who had been convicted twice of burglary and most recently had been released from prison in 2007 after serving time for robbery.


Associated Press writer John Rogers contributed to this story.

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