Chasen Murder: Details About "Person of Interest" - NBC Southern California

Chasen Murder: Details About "Person of Interest"

Published report gives details of person of interest's past

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    The ex-con named a person of interest in the slaying of Ronni Chasen before shooting himself to death in a Hollywood apartment building had a long criminal history including threats against police, according to published reports Sunday.

    The person of interest, identified as 43-year-old Harold Martin Smith, had been arrested seven times for crimes like misdemeanor drug possession and felony robbery, The Los Angeles Times reported.

    The rap sheet details came a day after Beverly Hills police said the murder of the Hollywood publicist was still an open case, and that it has not named Smith as anything more than a person they would have like to have talked to. Other people living at a low-cost Hollywood apartment house said Smith had hinted he had killed Chasen.

    The Times published a note from the minutes of a proceeding for an arrest for disturbing the peace and possession of drug paraphernalia that said "Public safety hold. Threaten to kill police officer."

    According to the paper, Smith's criminal record dates back to at least 1991, including a conviction for a 1998 robbery where he was accused of "stealing a Sony Walkman and other items from two women," The Times reported. He pleaded no contest to the charge and was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

    Beverly Hills police Friday said preliminary ballistic tests done on the gun that Smith used to kill himself Wednesday do not match those done on slugs recovered in Chasen's Nov. 16 shooting death. It remains unclear if Smith, who supposedly bragged about killing Chasen, saying he was due $10,000, had anything to do with the killing, or if he was just delusional.

    Chasen, 64, was shot five times in the chest, apparently by a crack shot, as she drove home from a party after the premiere of "Burlesque." She was shot through the passenger side of her Mercedes-Benz about 12:30 a.m. that Tuesday as she turned south off Sunset Boulevard onto Whittier Drive, where she crashed into a light pole.

    Chasen's friend and co-executor of her will, Martha Smilgis, spoke with TODAY Monday morning.

    "It's very difficult because Ronni was really beloved by many people," Smilgis said. "I never saw here lose her temper."

    Smilgis was asked whether she believed the slaying was a plot or a random case of road rage.

    "We were walking in Franklin Canyon, and she parked her beautiful new Mercedes next to my old Honda, and I point blank told her the car was a target with her blonde hair," Smilgis said. "I said, 'You know, at a time like this at night it's dangerous.' She was oblivious to this. She was a slow driver. This was a person who was totally risk averse. The car was very flashy, in my mind. It very well could be that.

    "The rumors are flying because it's the movie business. Everything was above board in the business. She really had no enemies."

    At least one bullet recovered was a 9 mm hollow point, according to published reports.

    Beverly Hills police, acting on tip received via "America's Most Wanted," went to the Harvey Apartments in the 5600 block of Santa Monica Boulevard to question Smith. But when he saw officers coming for him, he pulled out a pistol and killed himself.

    The suicide was caught on surveillance video.

    Smith, who had been evicted from the apartments where he killed himself, reportedly did not have a car -- just a bicycle. He also had lived in New York for some time.

    Terri Gilpin, who lives at the Harvey Apartments, said Smith bragged about killing Chasen.
     

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