A report from the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office is raising questions about the official police account of the November 2010 murder of longtime showbiz publicist Ronni Chasen.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the autopsy report stated that while Chasen was stopped at a red light at the intersection, “an unknown vehicle pulled up and someone fired approximately four gunshots into her vehicle.” But that account, based on initial informant and witness statements, came in a coroner investigator’s narrative that was prepared on Nov. 16, the same day that Chasen was murdered.
Beverly Hills police and other investigators later concluded that Chasen was shot by small-time crook Harold Martin Smith, who pulled up alongside her car on a bike and tried to rob her. Smith later shot himself in a Hollywood apartment building as police were trying to bring him in for questioning.
The Nov. 16, 2010 coroner’s report is based on statements that Beverly Hills police detective Chris Coulter made to Lt. Larry Dietz of the Forensic Science Center. It states that while Chasen “was stopped at a red light at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Whittier Drive an unknown vehicle pulled up and someone fired approximately 4 gunshots into her vehicle. All witnesses report hearing 4 gunshots. After being struck by gunfire and she then made a left turn and drove for approximately a quarter mile before she crashed her car into a pole.”
Chasen’s violent death jolted the showbiz community. Some friends of the veteran praiser have long been skeptical of the official law enforcement account of her death.
NBC News’ Andrew Blankstein, citing a source familiar with the case, reported that the autopsy report was delayed in its release because police were trying “to protect the Chasen family.”
The police department had put a security hold on the autopsy report to protect the family’s privacy, but it was released as part of a settlement that filmmaker Ryan Katzenbach made with the county of Los Angeles after he filed suit to gain access to case file information in the homicide. He is raising money via indiegogo crowdfunding for the production of his documentary film, “6:38 — The Death of Ronni Chasen.”
Following the release of the autopsy report, the Beverly Hills Police Department released a statement about the case, saying that it is “proud of its investigation of the Ronni Chasen homicide and we stand by our final conclusion.
“The police department has always been sensitive and protective as to privacy and feelings of the Chasen family and others who have been victims of such a tragedy.
“We have great respect for the friends and family of Ms. Chasen, we are hopeful that others will continue to respect their privacy.”
(Pictured above: Beverly Hills Police chief Dave Snowden, left, and Beverly Hills mayor Jimmy Delshad at a December 2010 news conference on the murder investigation.)