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Vehicle to be searched in case of missing Fox studio executive

January 25, 2013 |  7:49 am

Los Angeles County sheriff's investigators outside a home on Santa Susana Place in Canoga Park, where a search warrant was served last year as part of the investigation into the disappearance of Gavin Smith. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Authorities are trying to sort out the connection between a Hummer located this weekend and the case of 20th Century Fox executive Gavin Smith, who has been missing for nine months.

Smith, a former UCLA basketball player who worked in Fox's movie distribution department, left a friend's home in Ventura County's Oak Park neighborhood the night of May 1. Wearing purple athletic pants belonging to one of his sons, Smith drove away in his Mercedes, leaving behind his cellphone charger, shaving kit and other items.

Detectives have long emphasized that their probe of Smith's disappearance is a missing person investigation. But in recent months, the case has taken a new twist with connections to a man convicted drug dealer.

The Hummer was found Wednesday outside a marijuana grow house in Granada Hills.

Detectives took possession of the vehicle Wednesday after federal drug agents investigating the grow house notified them of its presence.

The vehicle is registered to John Creech, a convicted drug dealer whose wife had ties to Smith and whose West Hills home was searched in June as part of the investigation, sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore confirmed. Investigators were expected to use a search warrant to examine the vehicle's interior for evidence.

Whitmore said authorities have been looking for the Hummer since the search of Creech's home and believe it may be tied to Smith's disappearance.

Chandrika Creech met Smith in therapy, according to a person familiar with the case who did not want to be named because the investigation is ongoing.

The cover pages of a sealed search warrant affidavit that referenced the address of the home, signed by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge on May 21, said detectives had probable cause that an unspecified felony had been committed at the residence.

Investigators left the home, located in the 8600 block of Santa Susana Place, with boxes, a computer and a black Audi SUV, but no arrests were made.

When asked why his home was searched, John Creech said: "I would love to tell you but I can't. I am told I cannot make any comments."

He added that he has "never met" Smith.

Creech made the statements to Times reporters at Los Angeles County Superior Court, where he was scheduled to be sentenced on a single count of selling and transporting drugs. Creech is being held at Men's Central Jail, according to online inmate records.

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-- Richard Winton

Photo: Los Angeles County sheriff's investigators outside a home on Santa Susana Place in Canoga Park, where a search warrant was served last year as part of the investigation into the disappearance of Gavin Smith. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

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