The sensational murder of Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen took a bizarre twist this week when police announced that a Hollywood transient was the likely shooter, that he had been on bicycle when the Beverly Hills killing happened, and that he was probably trying to rob her as she drove her Mercedes down a tony street near the Los Angeles Country Club.
The announcement by Beverly Hills police exonerated reporting by the Los Angeles Times, doubted here and elsewhere, that 43-year-old Harold Martin Smith was a suspect in the case and not just a crazy man who claimed to have killed Chasen when he took his own life in front of investigators 8 days ago.
But the case still leaves lingering questions:
-How did Smith end up on the far Westside of Beverly Hills when he claimed central Hollywood as his home?
-How did a homeless man riding around Beverly Hills on a bike go undetected by police (Beverly Hills cops are notoriously vigilant) and security surveillance video cameras during the early morning hours of Nov. 16, when Chasen was gunned down on Whittier Drive. As police descended on reports of shots fired in the area, he biked away without notice?
-And, more importantly, how did Smith squeeze a reported five shots totally on-target (into Chasen's chest and back) toward a moving car, from a moving bicycle?
Famed sheriff's Detective Gil Carillo, who helped solve the "Night Stalker" case of the 1980s, told reporters recently that whomever shot Chasen had to be a professional given the on-target hits into a moving vehicle. He said such shots would have been difficult to pull off even if the car was stopped.
Also, initial reports stated Smith's suicide gun, used Dec. 1 when police approached him at the Harvey Apartments on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood, was not a match with the murder weapon. Yesterday, police said it did match.
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And reports had at least one of the bullets that hit Chasen as a pro-like hallow-tip round. If true, that would be strange ammo for a homeless guy.
Finally, neighbors said Smith claimed he was owed $10,000, ostensibly for a hit on Chasen, a hit some believed was a figment of his imagination.He was the kind of guy, they said, who talked to himself.
We're not conspiracy theorists, but a lot of this story doesn't add up so far.