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Police: Hollywood publicist slain in random robbery by bicyclist

By Michael Martinez and Alan Duke, CNN
Police say there was no prior connection between slain publicist Ronni Chasen and man believed to have killed her.
Police say there was no prior connection between slain publicist Ronni Chasen and man believed to have killed her.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Police: preliminary tests show a suicide victim used the same gun that killed a publicist
  • Police say the suicide victim, Harold Martin Smith, had tried to rob publicist Ronni Chasen
  • Chasen was driving her car through Beverly Hills while Smith was on his bicycle, police say

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen was murdered as she was driving through Beverly Hills, California, in a random "robbery gone bad," by a man who killed himself last week, according to preliminary findings in the Beverly Hills police investigation.

Speculation that Chasen was targeted by a professional hit was shot down Wednesday by investigators who said much of what has been reported by the media since her killing three weeks was untrue.

Harold Martin Smith, 43, was apparently riding his bicycle when he shot Chasen several times as she was on her way home from a Hollywood movie premiere party, police said.

Smith later committed suicide with the same gun that was used in the Chasen killing, Beverly Hills Police Chief David Snowden said Wednesday. Smith shot himself in the head last week as police approached him for questioning as "a person of interest" while he was at his Hollywood apartment building.

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A preliminary ballistics test showed that Smith's gun was used in the slaying of Chasen, 64, said Beverly Hills Detective Sgt. Mike Publicker.

"With Mr. Smith's background, we believe most likely it was a robbery gone bad," Publicker said. "We believe it was a random act."

Publicker said it appeared no connection existed between Chasen and Smith prior to slaying.

"The detectives were able to do numerous interviews and through the information obtained in the interviews, it appears that he did act alone," Publicker said. "We believe his mode of transportation was by bicycle."

Authorities said the investigation, which is 60% to 70% complete, remains ongoing.

"There are additional interviews to be conducted, but this is our belief at this time," Publicker said.

"Carjackings are not unusual in Los Angeles, but "in our city it's more than exceedingly rare," said Chief Snowden of Beverly Hills. "It's non-existent."

"We don't believe it was a professional hit, and this is an open and ongoing investigation," Snowden said.

Smith, an ex-convict, pulled a handgun and shot himself as Beverly Hills detectives approached him at Hollywood's Harvey Apartments last Wednesday.

The television show "America's Most Wanted" put police in touch with a tipster who will likely received a $125,000 reward, Publicker said.