Hollywood publicist could have been killed by contract killer
Jon Swaine, New York
19 Nov 2010
Police in California believe a Hollywood publicist, whose death has shocked the film industry, was most likely to have fallen victim to a contract killer.
Ronni Chasen, 64, was killed early on Tuesday morning while driving through Beverly Hills on her way home from a film premiere and party.
Detectives are working on the belief that Ms Chasen's killer, who may have been driving a sports utility vehicle or a truck, drove up beside her Mercedes and shot her through her passenger-side window.
Analysts have said that the location where Miss Chasen was shot, her high profile and the absence of any apparent robbery suggested that her killing was premeditated or even contracted.
No suspects have emerged, however, and investigators are still puzzled as to what motive the killer could have had.
Jimmy Delshad, the Mayor of Beverly Hills, who was briefed on the inquiry by detectives, said: "Most indication is that it was targeted. A random killing wouldn't have happened like this."
Brad Garrett, a former FBI agent who is now a private detective, said: "On the profile of this woman, you certainly have to look at the potential that somebody wanted to harm her."
However further confusion has been caused by the shots being fired to the chest, rather than the head, where an assassin would typically be expected to target.
Family, friends and colleagues have said they are baffled at the thought that Ms Chasen, reputedly clean-living and well-liked, could have made such an enemy.
"She was just a terrific person, a great sense of humour, and great energy," said Larry Cohen, Miss Chasen's brother. "Certainly didn't deserve anything like this to happen to her."
Michael Levine, a friend and fellow publicist, said: "The mystery is extraordinary, and excruciating."
Carol Connors, a film songwriter and close friend, said: "A publicist doesn't make that type of enemy."
A $100,000 (£63,000) reward has offered for information leading to a conviction. All six major Hollywood studios are to co-host a memorial after her funeral on Sunday.
The killing caused shock in the surrounding area, one of California's most affluent. It was the third murder this year in Beverly Hills, where there were none reported in 2009.
Ms Chasen was found crashed into a lamp-post on Whittier Drive, just south of Sunset Boulevard. The street is lined with multi-million dollar mansions and runs alongside the Los Angeles Country Club.
Detectives have taken CCTV recordings from houses near to the crash site, including one belonging to Sherry Hackett, the widow of the late comedian Buddy Hackett.
Gina Hope, a local resident, told reporters: "Nothing ever happens in Beverly Hills. That's what we say, and why we live here - because it's one thousand per cent safe."