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December 1, 2010

Ronni Chasen suspect commits suicide in Hollywood hotel [UPDATED]

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/ronni_chasen_suspect_shoots_himself_in_hollywood_hotel_20101201/

The L.A. Times reports that the primary suspect in the shooting that killed publicist Ronni Chasen two weeks ago shot himself as he was being pursued by Beverly Hills Police:

A man believed to be connected to the slaying of veteran Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen fatally shot himself at a Hollywood hotel Wednesday evening as Beverly Hills police were serving a search warrant there, sources told The Times.

The name of the man was not released, and his exact connection to the Chasen murder case was not immediately known. The shooting occurred after 6 p.m., according to two law enforcement sources who spoke on the condition that they not be named. The two sources said police believe he was involved in Chasen’s death.

Chasen was shot to death last month while driving her Mercedes-Benz near the intersection of Whittier Drive and Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills. She was on her way home from a movie premiere after-party.

According to TheWrap.com, “Beverly Hills investigators approached the man in the lobby of the complex, the Times reported, and he backed away, refusing to raise his hands. He then pulled out a pistol and shot himself in the head…”

Chasen was Jewish and laid to rest at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary on Nov. 21, where some of the entertainment industry’s most prominent Jews are buried, including studio mogul Lew Wasserman, producer Aaron Spelling, Milton Berle, Al Jolson and Dinah Shore. Rabbi David Baron of Temple of the Arts conducted Chasen’s funeral service.

Though details regarding the ongoing investigation are being kept under wraps, ABC News recently reported that investigators believe the killing was obviously premeditated:

Several high-profile investigators not involved in the case say the details that have emerged indicate that the killing probably was premeditated and perhaps tied to a soured relationship.

Robert Wittman, a former senior investigator for the FBI, believes that the murder—Chasen was shot five times in the chest—could have been a result of conflict in the publicist’s business or personal life.

“It would be a business-related situation or something that is personal, where she upset somebody or shrugged off a suitor, or a client who felt she did them wrong,” says Wittman, who spent 20 years with the FBI and specializes in art-related crimes. “It’s obviously a premeditated killing.”

But the potential personal nature of the murder could make it easier to solve, Wittman says. Michael Baden, a forensic pathologist, agrees.

“This sounds solvable because for somebody to go to the trouble of doing this and probably hiring somebody to do it means they know the person,” he says.

The L.A. Times also reported that the suspect, named by a neighbor at the Harvey Apartments complex on the 5600 block of Santa Monica Boulevard, as “Harold” had been bragging about having a gun and mentioned his expectation of a $10,000 payment from a “job” he did, though he later changed his story and said it was a settlement from a lawsuit. The Los Angeles County coroner’s office confirmed to TheWrap.com that Harold was an African-American male in his 40s. He told neighbors he had served two stints in prison for firearms and drug convictions, according to The Times, and that he would rather die than go back to prison.

The Times quotes resident Brandon Harrison saying: “He told me several times, ‘If it ever came back down to me going to prison, I would die first.’ ”

What is unclear is if “Harold’s” death will further obscure the truth surrounding Chasen’s murder. Questions remain as to whether Chasen’s death was the result of a hired hit and if the shooting suspect’s death will make further clues impossible to trace.

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