Beverly Hills police have identified the man they believe committed the Nov. 16 murder of popular Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen before turning the gun on himself as police closed in.
According to police reports, Harold Martin Smith was a career criminal who shot and killed Chasen during a robbery attempt, and committed suicide with the same gun as officers closed in on him on Dec. 1.
Beverly Hills police said they tracked Smith following an anonymous tip received from an “America’s Most Wanted” viewer, leading detectives to his residence at the Harvey Apartments in Los Angeles.
Prior to the November robbery attempt, Smith, 43, had been arrested seven times and served 12 years in prison for robbery. Neighbors interviewed by local police said Smith bragged about killing Chasen in the weeks following her death and claimed he’d been paid $10,000 to commit the crime. However, Beverly Hills police do not believe Smith received any pay for the crime and acted alone.
“We believe that it was most likely a robbery gone bad,” Beverly Hills Detective Sergeant Mike Publicker said at a press conference. “He was at a desperate point in his life and he was reaching out and taking desperate measures.”
While Beverley Hills Police Chief Dave Snowden said the investigation into Chasen’s murder is 60 to 70 percent concluded, a core of unanswered questions remain. Detectives are still unable to determine how Smith, who rode a bicycle, shot Chasen five times while she drove her Mercedes-Benz. It’s also unclear how Smith returned home to the Harvey Apartments—a six-mile distance from the crime scene—without being noticed.