Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen may not have been shot five times in the chest as was widely reported at the time of her death, TheWrap has learned.
A law enforcement insider close to the case told TheWrap that there has been significant “misinformation” that has led to confusion about the circumstances of the publicist’s violent shooting death on Nov. 16, including in a preliminary coroner's report.
In fact, the police are expected to reveal new information about the case in the next two weeks that the insider said will go a long way in easing public skepticism that Harold Smith killed Chasen in an apparently random act of violence.
“There was tremendous misinformation in the media — from the coroner’s report, from statements about Harold Smith that people made at the apartment building were incorrect,” said the insider, who expects the case to be officially closed in a couple of weeks.
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A spokesman for the coroner’s office confirmed on Wednesday that the actual autopsy report has never been released. “It is on security hold,” said Craig Harvey, the public information officer.
Neither the insider nor the coroner’s spokesman would confirm or deny whether Chasen was shot five times, as has been widely reported and accepted. Her death was determined to have come from “multiple gunshot wounds,” according to the coroner.
The main source of misinformation, said the insider, is a preliminary coroner’s report that was shown on local television and widely accepted as accurate.
The three-page preliminary report — leaked to Fox 11 and picked up by everyone else — said Chasen was shot three times in the right shoulder and twice in the back with what appeared to be a hollow point bullet.
But that report was not based on the autopsy, which took place on Nov. 17, a day after the shooting. “It’s actually not a coroner’s report, it’s a half of a report,” said Harvey. “The investigator puts together basic case circumstances, next of kin, identity, after talking to detectives at the scene.”
He added: “The information in the investigator’s narrative is subject to change.”
The coroner’s office itself may have contributed to the confusion.
At the time, CNN confirmed that the report was written by investigators in order to help the doctor who would perform a full autopsy the next day, but a spokesperson said the preliminary report appeared to be valid — without saying whether the information was in fact accurate.
The notion that Chasen was shot five times in the chest strongly suggested a targeted murder rather than a panicked robbery gone bad. The fact that no bullet casings were found and that Smith had told people he was waiting for a $10,000 windfall all have fed suspicions that there is more to the case than the ex-felon’s ballistics match with the bullets that killed Chasen.
Having only been out of jail for three years since his last conviction for robbery in 1998 – in Beverly Hills, no less — the 43-year-old Smith killed himself when police approached him in the lobby of the Harvey Apartments on the afternoon of Dec. 1.
Among those who have questioned whether Harold Smith was in fact a lone shooter was screenwriter Lawrence Cohen, Chasen’s brother and the co-administrator of her estate. Cohen at first said said he thought his sister was the subject of road rage.
Others have been skeptical that Smith acted alone.
The police insider said that comments by supposed witnesses who lived at Smith’s transient hotel — including statements that he was expecting a $10,000 windfall — were “completely not credible.”