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Sheriff’s investigators searched a home in the San Fernando Valley on Friday in connection with the case of missing 20th Century Fox movie executive Gavin Smith, who disappeared more than a month ago.
A SWAT team and county homicide investigators descended on a cul-de-sac home in the 8600 block of Santa Susana Place in West Hills in the early morning hours June 8, using a loudspeaker to tell residents to come out, according to neighbors who spoke to the LA Times.
According to property records and neighbors, the house belongs to John and Chandrika Creech. Investigators remained at the home for more than five hours before leaving the home with boxes and a computer. They also towed away a black Audi SUV.
Authorities refused to provide details about the search, but said no arrests had been made.
A lawyer who came to the home, Daniel Teola, told the LA Times this was the second time in a month that deputies had searched the house. He refused to discuss the case or identify his clients.
Sheriff’s Lt. Dave Dolson emphasized that the investigation remains a missing person case and not a homicide investigation.
“We don’t have anything indicating there was foul play involved,” Dolson said. “We are not ruling it out, of course.… Everything’s still on the table.”
A law enforcement source said that serving a search warrant in a missing persons case is highly unusual.
The search comes days after a $20,000 reward was offered as officials appealed to the public for information that could help solve the case.
Smith, a former UCLA basketball player who worked on distributing films such as Titanic and Avatar, left a friend’s home between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. on May 1 without telling anyone where he was going. He wore a pair of purple athletic pants belonging to one of his sons and left his cellphone charger, shaving kit and other items.
His family and authorities have been unable to locate him either through cellphone records or credit card billings.
Smith, 57, an 18-year veteran of Fox’s distribution department and former UCLA basketball player, was last seen on the night of May 1 at a friend’s residence in Oak Park, an affluent Ventura County community. He left the property in his black Mercedes-Benz E420 sedan between 9 and 10 p.m.
Smith is Fox’s branch manager for theaters in Dallas and Oklahoma City. In his post, he serves as a liaison between the studio and theaters, making sure films get to their destination. He works out of the company’s Calabasas office in the southwestern San Fernando Valley, not far from his residence in West Hills. 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. Smith did not play in the 1975 championship game, but he logged minutes in two Final Four games the following season.
The family has offered a $20,000 reward for any information about the missing executive. The sheriff’s department is urging anyone with information about Smith to contact investigators at 323-890-5500.
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