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“There was evidence in the car that indicated he was killed in the car,” Det. Dave Dolson of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau told reporters at a press conference in Monterey Park, Calif. After the detectives found Smith’s car in 2013, “we confidently labeled Smith’s death a homicide.”
Dolson referred to the discovery of the body as “obviously a crucial piece of evidence.” He declined to say what the cause of death might be but said the body had suffered “some blunt force trauma.” He added that although they did not completely rule out possible gun wounds, “We don’t believe that is the case.”
Hikers and their dog discovered Smith’s remains on Oct. 26 in Angeles National Forest, which covers over 1,000 square miles north of Los Angeles. Smith was found in a shallow grave near the border of the cities of Palmdale and Acton. He was positively identified three days later and his family notified.
The discovery of Smith’s body enables the detectives to put in place the “how and why” Smith disappeared, bringing potential closure to a tragedy that started as a missing-person case in May 2012.
Smith, then 57, was last seen at a female friend’s home in Ventura County, close to his Calabasas office. The married father of three worked for 20th Century Fox as a regional manager in distribution. It’s unclear why he was staying away from home, but his son had earlier tweeted, then deleted, that his father had left the family.
The 6-foot-6 former UCLA star basketball player drove away from the friend’s house the night of May 2, 2012, casually dressed in his son’s purple workout pants. When he failed to pick up his youngest son from school the next day, he was noticed missing. Almost a year later on Feb. 21, 2013, police found Smith’s black Mercedes-Benz E420 sedan in a Simi Valley storage facility about 30 miles from Los Angeles, connected to convicted drug dealer John Creech.
See more Hollywood’s Notable Deaths of 2014
Smith had a relationship with Creech’s wife Chandrika, Dolson confirmed Thursday, although he declined to elaborate on the exact nature of their relationship. Other media outlets have linked the two as lovers who met through a shared history of drugs and therapy.
In a 2012 interview with Inside Edition, Smith’s wife Lisa acknowledged her husband had had affairs and a history of drug use. Dolson declined to comment on whether Smith’s personal history was a factor in their theory about his death.
Creech , who is currently in jail but was not incarcerated at the time of Smith’s disappearance, was and remains “a person of interest,” Dolson said. When asked by The Hollywood Reporter if there are additional persons of interest, he declined to comment. He also declined to comment about the discovery of a weapon at the grave. Dolson called a media report that Creech had hired others to kill Smith “a mischaracterization” of their case, but acknowledged “there is a possibility that others may have been involved.”
Dolson declined to cite what evidence of a homicide was found in Smith’s Mercedes, but said the exec was declared dead in May at the family’s request. The detective characterized their investigation was “pretty far along.” He said that dozens of search warrants had been executed and hundreds of pieces of evidence are still being worked through.
Authorities said previous searches had been done in the area where Smith was eventually found, but were unsuccessful because the area is “large and vast.”
Autopsy results have not been finalized.
Nov. 6, 2:39 p.m. Updated with details throughout.
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