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Man at center of Ronni Chasen investigation had long criminal record

December 4, 2010 |  1:23 pm

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.


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