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Friends of slain publicist Ronni Chasen aren’t satisfied that the crime has been solved, despite statements from the police that they believe her murder was the result of a random, botched robbery by Harold Smith, possibly on a bicycle.
The day after Beverly Hills police held a news conference saying they believe that Smith, 43, “acted alone” and that the murder was not a “professional hit,” Chasen’s closest friends met up for dinner and shared their concerns about the case, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“The consensus was there are still just too many unanswered questions,” said publicist Vivian Mayer-Siskind, a longtime friend who help organize and spoke at Chasen’s funeral. “Those unanswered questions led us to really speculate as to whether this crime is solved, and we believe it is not.”
Another longtime friend, publicist Kathie Berlin, who also spoke at the memorial service, agreed: “It’s ridiculous, just ridiculous. It doesn’t add up, and I haven’t talked to anyone who thinks it does.”
One observer told the Times that it would be too hard for a “black guy with a gun on a bike in Beverly Hills” to get away very easily, while Berlin noted reports that Smith’s neighbors heard him boasting about getting an expected $10,000 windfall.
But police have been quick to shoot down any conspiracy theories, saying that preliminary police ballistics tests confirm the gun used in Smith’s suicide and Chasen’s murder is the same weapon.
“I can tell you the scenario our detectives presented is very plausible and very real,” department spokesman Lt. Tony Lee told the Times. “I think the media doesn’t want this so-called murder mystery to end this way.”
At Wednesday’s police news conference, Beverly Hills Police Chief David Snowden said the investigation was not complete, and the full ballistics tests were not expected to be completed for two weeks. Also, the coroner’s report had yet to be finalized, detective Mike Publicker said.
Snowden and Publicker declined to discuss video surveillance footage obtained by police at the news conference and have not answered many other questions about the case. They also have not said much about the man who fingered Smith via a tip submitted to America’s Most Wanted.
Which all may have led reporters at the news conference to raise questions about possible conspirators; Snowden and Publicker responded by saying there was no evidence indicating Smith did not act alone.
The unanswered questions also have apparently left Chasen’s friends skeptical, which is to be expected, America’s Most Wanted co-executive producer Steve Katz told the Times.
“Hollywood is a town that makes its money on good imagination,” he said. “If you find it hard to accept that a person you love was taken away in this totally unfair way, you search for answers, and you think there has to be some better explanation than, ‘This lowlife killed my friend.’ “
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