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Friday, January 4, 2013

Murder LA 000015

by James Cohen

November 15th, 2010:

Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen has been in her line of work since the early 70's, when her brother, Larry Cohen, hired her to promote his films. She's well known in the industry for leading Oscar campaigns and that business brings her to tonight's premiere of Burlesque, starring Cher and Christina Aguilera.

November 16th, 2010:

About half past midnight, Chasen, heading home, arrives at the intersection of Sunset and Whitttier, where she is fatally shot five times through her front passenger side window--by a man on a bicycle, according to police, though no witnesses are publicly known. Local residents report hearing several gunshots, followed by a crash as her black Mercedes strikes and topples a street light. Nothing is stolen.

December 1st, 2010:

Police arrive at an apartment building on Santa Monica near Van Ness, looking to question Harold Martin Smith, 43. They've received a tip through America's Most Wanted that Smith has claimed responsibility for Chasen's murder. According to witnesses, police find Smith in the lobby, where he shoots and kills himself on the spot. The department confirms only that officers were there at the time.

December 8th, 2010:

Police announce that the gun Smith used to commit suicide is the same that killed Chasen, despite initial reports that they were different calibers. Though not yet closing the case, they are confident that it was simply a "robbery gone bad."

July, 2011:

The case is officially closed.

  • There were several media/police discrepancies, including an early leaked coroner's report that concluded she was shot by an "expert marksman" and that the bullets may have been hollow-point. The implication, of course, being that it was a hit, rather than a random act. A homicide detective commented, "I'll be honest with you: I've carried a gun for 38 years and had to qualify quarterly. I don't know that I could shoot and hit that mass like that." And though it was widely reported, police denied that the America's Most Wanted tipster--who has remained anonymous--said Smith expected to be paid $10,000 for the murder. Is this evidence of a more sinister plot going ignored or of news outlets eager to repeat unsubstantiated claims?
  • Chasen was single with no children and her last known will is from 1994. It left a substantial amount to one niece and $10 to another. Chasen's brother, Larry Cohen, the named executor, gained access to her bank deposit box, hoping to find a more recent will but found only jewelry.
  • In the video of the crashed car, the emergency lights are blinking. Did the police do that or did she have time after being shot to put on the hazards--or, perhaps, before being shot?