Cops Still Can’t Link Ex-Con to Ronni Chasen Killing

As we learn more about Harold Martin Smith – last jailed in 1998 for robbery – still no link to the publicist’s killing

UPDATE – DEC. 4. 2010  – 11:30AM

Ballistics tests conducted by police on the gun Harold Smith used to shoot himself on Dec. 1  do not, according to KTLA , match the gun used to fatally shoot Ronni Chasen five times on Nov. 16. 

Attempts by TheWrap to contact Beverly Hills police and LAPD were not returned immediately.


The more we learn about the "person of interest" in the Ronni Chasen case, the less relevant Harold Martin Smith seems to discovering who really killed the Hollywood publicist.

"He was a druggie and a robber," a senior law enforcement official told TheWrap. "He doesn't seem like a killer."

Smith, who Beverly Hills police called a “person of interest,” shot himself dead Wednesday evening as he was approached by BHPD detectives at a transient hotel in Hollywood.

Police acknowledged on Friday that they still did not know if Harold Martin Smith had a connection to the publicist's shooting death. In a statement, the Beverly Hills police said, "It is unknown if this individual was involved in the Chasen homicide."

According to court documents, Smith (pictured in mug shot at left; photo from TMZ) had a long history of criminal behavior including burglary and drug possession in California and in New York state. 

In what seems to be the most recent case, Smith, who  apparently also went by the name Howard Jones, was arrested by the BHPD in 1998 on two counts of robbery and was sentenced to 11 years in jail. Smith, whose parole ended last year, supposedly repeatedly told fellow residents at the Harvey Apartments that he would never go back to prison.

Under California's three strikes law Smith, who already had prior two felony convictions, would have been sent to prison for life if found guilty of another.

Other news in the case: A Santa Monica judge granted a petition to appoint special administrators for Chasen’s estate on Friday. The publicist’s brother, Lawrence Cohen, along with long-time friend Martha Smilgis will oversee Chasen & Co., the 64-year old’s publicity company, and determine if Chasen's 1994 will, filed Thursday, was her lasting living testament.

Chasen left an estate valued just over $6 million dollars.

Contacted by TheWrap, Beverly Hills police said they had no information to share on the reports of Harold Smith’s criminal past or the state of their investigation, which is only the third homicide in their jurisdiction this year.

BHPD did confirm Friday that a tip received after “America’s Most Wanted” broadcast a story on the Chasen murder on Nov. 20 helped lead them to Smith. 

Smith fatally shot himself in the lobby of 5640 Santa Monica Blvd. on Wednesday as police sought to serve a search warrant. LAPD Det. Kevin McClure described Smith as a "suspect” several times during a Dec. 1 joint press conference, as did BHPD’s Lt. Tony Lee, until being corrected and changing the description to "person of interest."

The 43-year old was pronounced dead on the scene at around 6 p.m.

The LAPD, which is conducting the death investigation into what happened at the Harvey Apartments, is scheduled to do a ballistics test early next week on the gun Smith used to sh0ot himself.

His death came just over two weeks after the Hollywood publicist was killed on her way home from the “Burlesque” premiere after-party at the W Hotel in Hollywood on Nov. 16.

Chasen was shot five times with 9mm hollow-point bullets, with three wounds to the chest and two wounds to her right shoulder, according to a leaked coroner’s report. The attack took place on Whittier Dr., just south of Sunset Blvd. in Beverly Hills at around 12:30 a.m.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this article.