Ronnie Chasen

Mathew Imaging/

How did Ronni Chasen's murder go from a "classic Hollywood whodunit" worthy of a Law & Order to an all-too-common street crime fit for America's Most Wanted?

Here's the timeline:

Conspiracy Corner, Comic Con 2009 Brick




Nov. 17: One day after the Hollywood publicist is gunned down in her car in Beverly Hills, police tell TheWrap the investigation is "wide open." So far, so normal. 

Nov. 18: All hell breaks loose.

A CBS News legal analyst theorizes on air that the Chasen murder was "a professional hit." A 90210 official tells the Hollywood Reporter police "believe the Beverly Hills attack was planned in advance." Beverly Hills Mayor Jimmy Delshad goes on TV to say "the most indication is that it was targeted."

"A random killing will not happen like this…," Delshad continues, " and it seems like it wasn't just a random killing." 

Nov. 30: The autopsy report reveals Chasen was shot with hollow-point bullets. The bullets are especially destructive—and, per the popular speculation, indicate someone had it especially out for Chasen.

Dec. 1: Working on a lead provided by an AMW tipster, police arrive at the run-down Hollywood hotel residence of 43-year-old ex-con Harold Martin Smith. Smith kills himself in front of officers.

Dec. 4: Los Angeles' KTLA News reports the gun Smith used to kill himself does not match the one used to kill Chasen.

Dec. 8: Police announce the suicide gun does match the murder weapon, and say, from what they know now, Smith, acting alone, killed Chasen during a "robbery gone wrong."

To sum up, police played things close to the vest (even now they're only terming their investigation "60-70 percent complete"); civilians did what civilians do, and spun theories.

To fact check some of the speculation:

Yes, random killings do occur just like the Chasen killing—that's why they're called random.

Yes, robberies can be so botched that nothing gets robbed—that's why they're called botched. (See: the Sal Mineo story—or, wait for the James Franco-planned biopic of the Sal Mineo story.)

Outside of Hollywood movies, hit men don't get all that much work. According to ex-FBI agent Jim Fisher's crime site, there are perhaps 150-200 murder-for-hire cases each year. That's compared to 13,000-plus overall homicides—nearly a 1,000 of which, in 2009, per the FBI, were linked to robbery, burglary and motor-vehicle theft.

So, is this case closed? Afraid that would be yet more speculation.

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