Shocking Twist in Hollywood Publicist Murder
The plot thickens in the mysterious murder of powerful Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen.
A man being investigated by police for Chasen's assassination shot himself to death during a standoff with cops.
The drama unfolded in the lobby of the Harvey Apartments in a seedy section of Hollywood. Beverly Hills detectives armed with a search warrant confronted the man for questioning just before 6 p.m., and that's when the suspect suddenly pulled out a gun and shot himself.
Neighbors identified the man as Harold Smith, and say he was in his 40's. He was reportedly an ex-con who served two terms in state prison for gun possession and drugs.
INSIDE EDITION's Jim Moret spoke to Smith's neighbor Robin Lynch who said, "One thing I thought was peculiar was that he always wore these gardeing gloves, and he'd even shake my hand with them."
Neighbors say Smith claimed to be expecting a $10,000 windfall for a job he had just done, and that he even bragged about killing Chasen.
Smith's other neighbor, Terri Lyn Gilpin, told INSIDE EDITION, "He said, 'You know that lady on TV, that publicist? Yeah, I killed her.' "
Smith lived in apartment 329 of the seedy building. INSIDE EDITION's Jim Moret reported from an apartment similar to the one Smith lived in, a small studio under 200 square feet with a living area, a basic kitchen and ordinary bathroom. The apartment rents for about $650 a month.
Smith's shocking suicide in Hollywood took place just seven miles, and a world away, from the the glitzy Beverly Hills neghborhood where Chasen was found gunned down behind the wheel of her Mercedes.
Police are now conducting tests to determine whether the suspect killed himself with the same hollow point 9 millimeter bullets used to slay Chasen.
"It's a person that, by all accounts, would not have any direct contact with Ronni Chasen. How would police get here?" Moret asked retired police officer Tom Elfmont.
Elfmont said, "They had to have credible information that this suspect was involved in the homicide."
There's now speculation that Harold Smith was a hit man hired to gun Chasen down, which means the mastermind behind her slaying is still at large.
Elfmont said, "I still find it inconceivable that he would have been able to do it strictly on his own, because to know her whereabouts, you would have had to have her under surveillance. And so there would have to be other parts to this crime and other people involved in the crime."
Chasen, who was driving home from the star-studded premier of Burlesque the night of her murder, comes from a showbiz family. Her brother, Larry Cohen, is a well-known producer of the 70's cult horror films It's Alive and Chud. He even had a small acting role in Chevy Chases's movie Spies Like Us.
With the murder of his sister, and the dramatic suicide of her suspected killer, he is witnessing a real-life story that could rival any Hollywood thriller.