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Autopsy Report, Film Interviews Raise Questions About Ronni Chasen's Killing

Ryan Katzenbach's lawsuit leads to the release of Hollywood publicist's autopsy report.

Last month, filmmaker Ryan Katzenbach sued the city of Beverly Hills and the L.A. County coroner's office in a bid to obtain police files related to the shooting death of Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen for use in his documentary "6:38." 

As a result of his lawsuit, the L.A. County coroner’s office released the autopsy report this week, more than three years after Chasen was found shot multiple times in her Mercedes coupe on a Beverly Hills street in November 2010. A year later, the Beverly Hills Police Department concluded that her death resulted from a botched robbery by Harold Martin Smith, a small time ex-convict desperate for money. 

Smith, 43, was named a suspect, but police say he committed suicide when officers confronted him at the Harvey Apartments in Hollywood on Dec. 1, 2010. The gun Smith used to kill himself matched the gun used to shoot Chasen, police said. 

Katzenbach said in a statement that he had settled the lawsuit with the coroner's office, which agreed to release the autopsy report, but that the suit against the Beverly Hills Police Department is still ongoing.

"We've asked for cooperation from the Beverly Hills Police repeatedly," Katzenbach said. "And they have refused to answer any questions we have. They have also refused to turn over any documents that could substantiate and satisfy even the most basic questions about this murder, including whether or not Chasen was actually shot in the intersection as they've claimed."

See that attached video, which was produced by Katzenbach to ask for funds for his film. It includes details and witness accounts of the shooting.

The autopsy report shows that police initially believed that Chasen was shot from another vehicle, before changing to the theory that Smith shot her while on a bicycle, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In his fundraising video, Katzenbach interviews two witnesses who said they heard rapid shots followed immediately by a crash, calling into doubt the Beverly Hills Police Department's assertion that Chasen drove a quarter mile after being shot before crashing. 

The autopsy report could reignite conspiracy theories that swirled after her death, particularly among friends who never accepted the official police account, according to The Times.

In July of 2011, the Beverly Hills PD released a statement that said, "Without a doubt, it is the conclusion of robbery homicide detectives that the sole perpetrator of this most heinous crime was Harold Martin Smith."

The Beverly Hills PD released a statement Friday, saying it was "proud" of its investigation, according to the Times, and that it stood by its final conclusion that Smith acted alone.  

 -- City News Service contributed to this report. 

Scott Zwartz December 14, 2013 at 12:57 PM
A lot has been written about the ludicrous idea that Smith shot Chasen -- far too much to be repeated here. The police version about how the cops shot Smith in the "lobby" of the Harvey Hotel is sheer nonsense for anyone who has been in that "lobby." Who ordered the hit on Smith is unknown, but it is clear that whoever it was is receiving protection from very high places. It is only coincidental that I was very familiar with the lobby of the Harvey Hotel, the route Chasen would have taken to Beverly Hills, and the intersection of Sunset and Whittier and the intersection (fork) at Whittier and Linden. It would help refresh readers' minds if Patch re-published some of the original stories, e.g. which homeowners said they heard the gun shots As a publicist, Chasen could become privy to a lot of confidential information about both celebrities and politicians. Between the two categories, politicians are more likely to lose more than celebrities by disclosure and to also have the clout to cause a cover-up. Katzenbach, however, is following proper procedure is trying to get facts. Let's remember, however, that the facts he seeks may be what got Chasen killed.


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