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Man at center of Ronni Chasen investigation had long criminal record

Jay Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

The man who killed himself when Beverly Hills detectives investigating the Ronni Chasen case confronted him on Wednesday has a long criminal record, according to court documents.

Harold Martin Smith, 43, had been arrested seven times for crimes ranging from misdemeanor drug possession to felony robbery. The records suggest that 13 years ago Smith had some animus toward police. A note in the minutes of a 1997 proceeding stemming from an arrest for misdemeanor disturbing the peace and possession of drug paraphernalia reads: "Public safety hold. Threaten to kill police officer."

Smith's most serious crime, according to the records, was a 1998 robbery in Beverly Hills in which he was accused of stealing a Sony Walkman and other items from two women. He pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 11 years in state prison. He was released in 2007. In August 2009, Manhattan Beach police found him loitering outside a woman's home and charged him with misdemeanor prowling and marijuana possession.

He was sentenced to three years' probation and a month in County Jail, but in September, after he failed to pay a $100 court fine, a judge in the Torrance courthouse revoked his probation and issued a bench warrant for his arrest.

Parole records obtained by The Times indicate that Smith had worked for a short time as a laborer after his release from prison but was unemployed earlier this year. He had recently been evicted from the Harvey Apartments. However, he spoke about an upcoming $10,000 windfall, one neighbor recalled.

Chasen was shot to death in her Mercedes-Benz on Nov. 16 as she drove home from a premiere party for the movie "Burlesque." Investigators initially described the case as wide open. They have served multiple search warrants in the case but have refused to discuss the status of their investigation.

On Friday the Beverly Hills Police Department, whose officers were seeking to question Smith when he shot himself, said it was possible there was no connection at all.

"At this time, it is unknown if this individual was involved in the Chasen homicide," department spokesman Lt. Tony Lee said in a statement.

RELATED:

Suicide of suspect in Ronni Chasen slaying caught on tape

Suspect in Ronni Chasen slaying had been under police surveillance

Ronni Chasen: Homicide Report

-- Harriet Ryan, Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton

Photo: Smith's body being removed from apartment. Credit: Jay Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

 
Comments () | Archives (13)

deport this guy back to what ever coutry his ancestors came from.

Hard to believe that stealing a walkman is a more serious charge than threatening to kill a police officer.

He's dead, George.

Harold Smith was not the shooter. He didn't even own a car. If he shot her from his bicycle it would have been a road rage situation - nobody hires a hit man on a bicycle. And hit men don't boast. If it was road rage, this is not the kind of guy who would have calmly collected all the shell casings in the dark before he rode away. The police don't have anything to connect him to Chasen other than a tip from "America's Most Wanted". They must already know what kind of gun he used to kill himself. Why aren't they saying whether it was a 9 mm?

"Deport this guy"? Hello? He's DEAD!

Hard to believe you get 11 years in prison for stealing a Sony Walkman. Perhaps there was something else to that robbery? Otherwise, that is just ridiculous.

I heard on the news tonight that the suicide gun is not the same as the murder weapon.

If you steal a walkman during a violent robbery it does call for 11 years in prison. The value of the property taken is not an indicator of what the prison sentence should be. If that was the case then Bernie Madoff would have gotten an infinity sentence.

Hope the detectives can get a license plate number off that new Video surveillance tape they reported yesterday. A Lincoln Continental Town Car, yep, it drove by the scene of Chasen's accident, 30 seconds after it happened!

This Smith guy had 2 felony strikes against him and he just didn't want to spend the rest of his life in prison, so he ended his life.

They really should change this law anyways, to a 3rd strike being for a violent crime only because prison doesn't fit the crime for each individual one.

In reply to Dchang:

If the robbery was committed while armed with a gun it may have added to the sentenced.

The MS criminal justice program has been a true blessing to me and assisted me with a better understanding of the fundamental basis and objectives of criminal justice systems. Search the internet "United Forensic College"

watch if the money from the will goes towards any large debts

the real hit man is still out there


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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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