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As the search for missing 20th Century Fox distribution executive Gavin Smith enters its second week, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has confirmed that a body found in the Angeles National Forest is not the 57-year-old Hollywood veteran.
News reports surfaced Thursday saying that the California Highway Patrol had found the body of a man on the Angeles Crest Highway near the Los Angeles-area city of La Canada Flintridge after a motorist spotted it and called authorities.
The sheriff’s department, which is handling the search for Smith, told The Hollywood Reporter that it had received information that the body found is not that of the former UCLA basketball player and longtime Fox employee. “That’s the preliminary information that we have received,” said Lt. Margarito Robles. “I would think if it was [Smith], the whole world would know about it by now.”
The Altadena Patch website also has reported that a sheriff’s department homicide detective said the deceased person is not Smith.
Smith was last seen on the night of May 1 at a friend’s residence in Oak Park, an affluent Ventura County community. Smith departed from the property in his black Mercedes-Benz E420 sedan between 9 and 10 p.m., according to the sheriff’s department.
An 18-year veteran of Fox’s distribution department, Smith is the branch manager for theaters in Dallas and Oklahoma City. In his Fox post, Smith serves as a liaison between the studio and theaters, making sure films get to their destination.
“We are very concerned about Gavin,” Fox distribution president Chris Aronson told THR on May 4. “We are actively doing what we can to assist the L.A. Sheriff’s Department.”
The 6-foot-6 Smith was a sophomore forward on the 1974-75 UCLA men’s basketball team that won a national championship in legendary coach John Wooden‘s final year at the helm. While Smith did not play in the 1975 championship game, he logged minutes in two Final Four games the following season. He scored six points in UCLA’s national semifinal loss to eventual champion Indiana and logged eight points and four rebounds in the team’s victory over Rutgers in the third-place game. He played in 30 of 32 games that season and averaged 5.9 points per game. Smith transferred to the University of Hawaii in 1976 and finished his collegiate playing career there.
Smith’s son, Evan Smith, plays basketball for USC. He and his family have created a website seeking information about Smith and have taken to Twitter and appeared on television news programs to appeal for information about his whereabouts. “The problem here is that time is of the essence in these things,” Evan Smith said May 9 in an appearance on Inside Edition with his two brothers. “My gut feeling is that he is out there, and we just have to go find him.”
Family members have said that Smith was staying with a family friend in Oak Park on May 1 after returning from the CinemaCon theater-owners convention in Las Vegas. He was supposed to stay overnight there, the family has said. Smith resides in the San Fernando Valley community of West Hills — which is near Oak Park — and grew up in the valley. He starred on the basketball team at Van Nuys High School.
A handful of news outlets have reported that the case has been changed to a criminal homicide investigation. However, Robles told THR that all missing persons cases are handled by the sheriff’s department’s homicide bureau and that there has been no change in the status of the case. Sheriff’s department spokesman Steve Whitmore has said that detectives have found no signs of foul play.
On Thursday, the Smith family hired noted publicist Howard Bragman, founder of Fifteen Minutes PR, to serve as its crisis counselor.
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