After three weeks of frenzied speculation about hired killers, gang initiations, and Russian mobsters, Beverly Hills, Ca., police say the shooting death of movie publicist Ronni Chasen probably was a botched robbery by a small-time ex-convict who had grown desperate for money, the Los Angeles Times reports. Harold Smith, 43, an unemployed laborer with a rap sheet stretching back to the early 1990s, committed suicide last week as detectives attempted to question him about Chasen’s killing.
“We believe that Mr. Smith acted alone. We don’t believe it was a professional hit,” said Police Chief Dave Snowden. Snowden said preliminary ballistics tests showed the handgun that Smith used to shoot himself in the head in the lobby of an apartment building was the same weapon that killed Chasen on Nov. 16 as she drove her Mercedes-Benz sedan after a film premiere. Smith, who had been evicted was wanted by authorities for violating his probation, “was at a desperate point and was reaching out and doing desperate measures,” Det. Sgt. Michael Publicker said. “Most likely it was a robbery gone bad.” It was a tip to the Fox program “America’s Most Wanted” that led police to Smith.