Hunt for Hollywood Publicist's Killer: Starting From Scratch

Ballistics tests do not link Harold Smith's gun to shots that killed Chasen.

ByMike Von Fremd and Brian O'keefe
December 06, 2010, 6:56 AM

Dec. 6, 2010 — -- After many interviews, ballistics tests and employing a little commonsense, Beverly Hills investigators now say that Harold Martin Smith, who took his own life, probably has no connection to the murder of Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen.

It was a tip called into the TV show "America's Most Wanted" that alerted police that Harold Smith had been bragging that he killed Ronni Chasen. When approached by the police for questioning in the lobby of a seedy hotel last week, Smith shot himself.

"It is not back to ground zero -- in any murder investigation lots of times you have false leads running down all sorts of tips from the public that turn out to be nothing," said Dana Cole, a defense attorney.

Investigators have computers and text messages, and a massive amount of work ahead of them. According to The Hollywood Reporter, investigators have been reviewing a surveillance camera video that shows the moment Chasen crashed her Mercedes.

Investigators are also reviewing video of a black Lincoln Town Car that passed Chasen's car minutes after her crash and did not to stop.

"That Lincoln Town Car is very interesting to law enforcement officials, because that Town Car is a potential witness that could give clues to what happened at the crash, in the moments before and after," Robin Sax, a former prosecutor, said on "Good Morning America" today.

With Smith no longer a person of interest, investigators are searching for other potential suspects. "Family members are always going to be of importance," said Sax. "Our biggest clue is to look in the will. Who was left out? Ronni Chasen's brother. It doesn't seem that they've had a very close relationship until their mother died in 2000. Why is it that he is so hung up on this road rage theory when no one supports that theory? Clues are making us wonder what involvement, if any, does he have."

As curiosity intensifies, more of Chasen's closest friends want the public to understand that she was not a woman born into privilege. She often opted to get her hair cut at bargain salons, and she was very careful with her money, making sure she could always meet payroll for her staff of four. Chasen was 64, and her friends said she had to fight to keep her publicity company in the limelight at a time when younger and sometimes bigger companies were trying to take all the business.

"If this was a professional hit, then you can usually trace it back to some sort of financial issue, and the fact that she was a spendthrift at some point and time may actually become an important clue," said Cole.

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