Chasen Case Lingers

The media storm surrounding the Ronni Chasen murder case was beginning to dissipate at press time, but plenty of questions remain.

Chasen, a Hollywood publicist, was gunned down in Beverly Hills after a party for the movie “Burlesque” Nov. 16. Chasen, who was reportedly well liked, at first appeared to be the victim of a random shooting or road rage. The killer shot her through her car’s passenger window. Her purse was found at the scene of the crime.

But soon there were whispers it was a professional hit. Chasen was shot five times in the chest, and no shell casings were found at the scene. Neighbors reported they heard motorcycles the night before, which caught the attention of Michael Sands, who is associated with police officials and the FBI on high-profile cases.

“Never before in my 40 years have I seen motorcycles pacing Whittier Drive,” Sanders told Fox News’ “Pop Tarts.” “It’s all speculation, but if it was a hired hit job – which it sounds like it was – there is usually a scout, a tracker and a wet man who finishes the job. It is possible the location was being properly scouted out the night before.”

A Beverly Hills resident told “Pop Tarts,” “I was up late when I heard the shots, it sounded like a hammer. They were immaculately timed. … BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. It was perfect rhythm.”

But for all the talk of Mafia hits and art deals gone bad, the case came to a neat end (police say the case is about 70 percent closed) when Harold Martin Smith, who had a laundry list of convictions, shot himself as police approached him for questioning Dec. 1. An anonymous tipster told the TV show “America’s Most Wanted” that Smith bragged he had killed Chasen for a $10,000 bounty.

Beverly Hills Police said there was a “preliminary match” between the gun that Smith used on himself and the one used to kill Chasen. They claimed Smith killed Chasen in a “robbery gone bad” and got away on a bicycle that was found in an undisclosed location in Beverly Hills.

But even at the BHPD press conference, reporters sounded skeptical. The Los Angeles Times ran a story headlined “Case Isn’t Closed For Doubters In Chasen Slaying” and journalist Allison Hope Weiner reported she had a police insider who questioned the theory.

For instance, several news sources had already reported unnamed sources that the suicide gun did not match the gun used to kill Chasen.

“How could they let that information out if it wasn’t true, if the guns did match?” one person who had been following the case closely asked the Times.

“It’s ridiculous, just ridiculous,” publicist Kathie Berlin, a friend of Chasen for four decades, told the paper. “It doesn’t add up and I haven’t talked to anyone who thinks it does.”

Weiner’s source inside the L.A. Police Department isn’t on board with the official story.

“After listening to the details of the press conference, one of my police sources familiar with the investigation questioned the credibility of the investigation and quipped, ‘If I’m murdered and you find my body in Beverly Hills, please drag my body to LAPD. Even if you have to leave a bloody trail,'” Weiner wrote.

Weiner’s source asked how a black man on a bicycle could shoot someone in Beverly Hills around midnight and not be pulled over for questioning. If it was a random robbery, why would he travel seven miles on his bicycle when he could rob someone closer to his home?

If he didn’t have any money, where did he train for his marksmanship? And, for someone who was considered mentally unstable, he had the fortitude to pick up his shell casings from the street before leaving the crime scene (note: a .38 caliber revolver would not leave shell casings).

Police have dismissed doubts.

“I can tell you the scenario our detectives presented is very plausible and very real,” Beverly Hills PD spokesman Lt. Tony Lee said. “I think the media doesn’t want this so-called murder mystery to end this way.”

He added that bicycles are extremely prevalent with criminals. “You can’t copy a license plate; they get in and out of traffic; hide into the shadows of the night, through alleyways; and can dump the bike and can jump into a bus. It occurs all the time.
“We’re hoping to close this soon, and we’re asking everyone to remain patient.”

Chasen’s friend Berlin wasn’t persuaded.

“So who was paying him that $10,000 if he acted alone?” she asked the Times.