Ronni Chasen Remembered: One Year Later

5:53 PM PST 11/16/2011 by Lauren Schutte

Last year the well-known Hollywood publicist was murdered in Beverly Hills Nov. 16 as she was driving home from the premiere party for "Burlesque."

One year ago Wednesday, Nov. 16, Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen was murdered in Beverly Hills as she drove home from the afterparty for the premiere of Burlesque

Her longtime client, songwriter Diane Warren tweeted in remembrance, writing "One year ago tomm my friend and publicist Ronni Chasen was murdered. We will nvr know why and we will nvr forget U.#LOVEURONNI". She also wrote again on Nov. 14, saying, "Thinking of U today Ronni. F--k these laws that put guns in the hands of murderers. ... RIP" 

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Chasen was shot four times while driving her Mercedes-Benz shortly after midnight near Sunset Boulevard and Whittier Drive. Residents discovered her slumped over in the vehicle which crashed into a light pole on Whittier. She was transported to Cedars-Sinai hospital and pronounced dead 1:12 a.m.

In January 2011, Beverly Hills Police said that Harold Martin Smith, an unemployed felon who killed himself Dec. 1 before police could question him in relation to the murder, was the lone gunman who shot Chasen. The ballistics report confirmed that the same gun Smith used in his suicide was used to kill the publicist. 

Police said they believed Smith rode a bicycle to and from the scene of the crime and shot Chasen in an attempted robbery. 

In July, the case was officially pronounced closed after Beverly Hills Police sifted through more than 150,000 pieces of evidence, spending almost six months following tips to make certain there was no larger plot to murder Chasen as some in the industry and media suspected. The investigation of the Chasen killing drew attention from new outlets across the globe and garnered strong interest from local outlets as rumors swirled in the weeks after the shooting.

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After her death, many memorials and tributes were conducted in her memory, both at Michael's restaurant in New York and at the Four Seasons L.A. Chasen, who was buried at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary in L.A. Nov. 21, 2010, was honored with a private gathering funded by all six major film studios following the funeral. This year, she was also honored during the Jewish High Holy Days celebration in Sept. and saluted by the Ghent Film Festival in Oct..

Law & Order: Los Angeles even filmed an episode loosely based on the Chasen case in March. 

"Ronni was a dear friend and cherished member of our community," said Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures, at the time. "She was at our premiere last night and so full of her trademark energy and love of life. We are heartbroken, shocked and completely devastated."

Composer Hans Zimmer announced in Oct. of this year that he would sit out of the upcoming Oscar race partly because Chasen was not around to promote his work. 

“I don’t want to make a big thing out of it, but I just thought ‘no Ronni — I’ll take a break,’” he said.

And for her part, Warren, has made honoring Chasen's death something of a personal focus. She dedicated her Golden Globe win for best original song for Burlesque's "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me," in January, and also paid tribute to the publicist at the Palm Springs Film Festival that same month. 

"The saddest thing about this is that she's not here to celebrate this with me," said Warren in her Golden Globes acceptance speech. "I dedicated this to Ronni. Anything I get, I will dedicate to Ronni."

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