Police say a gun used by an ex-convict to commit suicide appears to have been used to kill Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen.
43-year-old Harold Martin Smith shot himself in the lobby of a Hollywood apartment after Beverly Hills detectives, acting on a tip they received from the television show "America's Most Wanted," attempted to question him.
Results from preliminary ballistics tests on Smith's weapon showed an apparent match to the gun used to kill Chasen, according to Chief Dave Snowden of the Beverly Hills Police Department.
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Police believe Chasen was a victim of a "random act of violence" during a "robbery gone bad" and not a professional hit, according to Sgt. Mike Publicker.
Police think Smith fell on desperate times and may have killed Chasen but stopped short of saying he was the gunman responsible. The investigation is still on going.
"They're going to continue this investigation until we can call you again out here and tell you with definitive proof who exactly the person that shot Ronni ... Chasen was, and we do believe at this point that we have a pretty good lead on this guy,'' Snowden told reporters.
"Through the interviews and the information we received, that leads us to believe he was at a desperate point in his life and was reaching out and doing desperate measures," Publicker said. "Preliminarily we believe it was a random act, and we believe Mrs. Chasen was going to be the victim of a robbery.''
At least one resident of the Harvey Apartments, in the 5600 block of Santa Monica Boulevard, said she had heard Smith brag about killing the publicist.
Chasen, 64, was shot five times in the chest 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. as she turned south off Sunset Boulevard onto Whittier Drive.
Police have said previously it was unknown whether Smith actually had any involvement with the Chasen killing. Other neighbors at the Harvey Apartments told reporters Smith claimed he was expecting a $10,000 payoff, either from a recent job or a lawsuit. They also said Smith bragged that he would do what it took to avoid going back to prison.
Smith had a lengthy criminal record, with crimes ranging from drug possession to disturbing the peace to robbery.