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Gavin Smith case: How Mercedes turned up in storage unit a mystery

March 14, 2013 |  2:58 pm

Investigators believe Fox executive Gavin Smith had already been killed by the time his Mercedes-Benz was moved from Porter Ranch to a Simi Valley storage facility, where it was found by detectives in February.

But Los Angeles County sheriff's homicide investigators have not said why Smith's car was in Porter Ranch. The 57-year-old former UCLA basketball player was last seen leaving a friend's home in Ventura County's Oak Park neighborhood the night of May 1.

On Thursday, sheriff's investigators asked the public for help in identifying anyone who moved the vehicle from Porter Ranch to the storage facility about a week later.

Detectives found the car at the facility on Feb. 21 after receiving a tip, said Sheriff's Lt. Dave Dolson. The storage locker was not registered to John Creech, a convicted drug dealer identified as a person of interest in the case, but was linked to a person close to him, Dolson said.

Dolson declined to specify what a search of the vehicle revealed, but it was enough to shift the case from a missing persons investigation to a homicide investigation.  Smith's body has not been found, but he is believed dead, officials said.

"The condition of the vehicle in conjunction with cooperating witness statements indicates he was killed," Dolson said. "At this time, the evidence leads us to believe he was murdered."

Investigators have "a good idea" of a motive, Dolson said, "but we're not going to discuss it."

Dolson told The Times that Smith was not believed to be involved in any drug transactions. They declined to disclose the nature of the relationship between Smith and Creech.

Officials have only said Smith and John Creech's wife, Chandrika, knew each other and met in rehab. When asked if their relationship was romantic in nature, Dolson declined to comment.

"They knew each other," he said.

John Creech has not spoken to investigators while serving time at Men's Central Jail for a drug conviction from last year, Dolson said. But Chandrika Creech has spoken with investigators on many occasions, he said.

Dolson declined to say what information Chandrika Creech has provided.

In an interview with a Times reporter at the time of his sentencing on an unrelated drug charge, John Creech said he had never met Smith.

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

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— Richard Winton, Andrew Blankstein and Kate Mather
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