Autopsy Report Raises New Questions About Death of Publicist Ronni Chasen

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An autopsy report released Thursday by the Los Angeles County coroner’s office on the death of Ronni Chasen appeared to contradict the official police version of how the Hollywood publicist was killed.


Ronni Chasen

Chasen, 64, was gunned down in Beverly Hills on Nov. 16, 2010, at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Whittier Drive.

She was on her way home after attending a premiere of the film “Burlesque,” Chasen’s friends said at the time.

The Beverly Hills Police Department concluded her death was the result of a botched robbery by Harold Martin Smith, an ex-convict who rode his bicycle from Hollywood to Beverly Hills, and killed Chasen in a “random” crime.

“It was a random act of violence, more a robbery gone bad,” Sgt. Michael Publicker of the Beverly Hills Police Department said.

When investigators went to the Harvey Apartments in Hollywood to interview Smith, he shot himself to death, police said.


Harold Martin Smith is seen in a police booking photo (Credit: Jackson County Sheriff’s Office)

Police confirmed ballistics evidence showed Smith killed himself with the same gun that was used in Chasen’s murder.  Beverly Hills police concluded Smith had acted alone.

But the newly released autopsy results appeared to contradict parts of the official police account of what happened.

The autopsy report, which was placed on a security hold by Beverly Hills police three years ago, was released as part of a settlement in a lawsuit by filmmaker Ryan Katzenbach, who is making a documentary about Chasen’s death.

In an interview last month, Katzenbach told KTLA 5 he had requested crime scene photos and the autopsy report, but all of his requests were denied. Katzenbach said he finally received the autopsy report at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday.

A copy of the report obtained by KTLA 5 stated “another vehicle approached and shots were fired.” But it did not mention a bicycle.

Chasen was shot four times “while stopped at a red light,” the autopsy report said.

The publicist then “drove for approximately a quarter mile before she crashed her car into a pole.

“Only the right passenger seat and ride side of the windows were damaged by gunfire,” the report said.