11.19.10

Police Chief Speaks Out on Hollywood Murder

Beverly Hills Police Chief, who has not before commented on the mysterious murder of star publicist Ronni Chasen, denies sharing details of his department’s investigation.

In the baffling case of who shot veteran Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen, the Beverly Hills Police Chief, who until now hasn’t spoken publicly about the case, shot down a report that he had told a city official that his department believes Chasen’s death was planned in advance.

“I never told anyone that,” says Police Chief David Snowden. “What they don’t know, they make up. And that seems to be the case now. Take that as somebody trying to make a hit with the newspaper. I never talked to anyone about that.”

Snowden pushed back against a story in the Hollywood Reporter that suggested detectives had a theory that Chasen was not gunned down as a result of road rage or a carjacking gone awry but that her killers had planned her murder. The reports suggested that the shooting occurred either as Chasen made a left turn from Sunset Boulevard onto Whittier Drive, or just after she made the turn.  According to that theory, the shooter pulled up next to the passenger side of Chasen’s Mercedes-Benz and fired, hitting her in the chest.

“Take that as somebody trying to make a hit with the newspaper. I never talked to anyone about that.”

Another story presented a conflicting story with police unsure about the location of the shooting—whether it occurred before she made the turn onto Whittier Drive or closer to where she crashed her car.

Ronni Chasen Murder Stumps Detectives

Ronni Chasen, Wonder Woman
Chasen, a fast-talking New Yorker with a quick wit, represented a number of A-list stars and filmmakers, including the late Natalie Wood and Jaws producer Richard Zanuck. She began her career in 1973, worked at Rogers & Cowan, and ran publicity at MGM before she formed her own company, Chasen & Co. Over the years, she worked on the marketing campaigns for Lolita, the Oscar-winning Driving Miss Daisy, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.

Chasen attended an after party for the premiere of the Cher film Burlesque that evening and was apparently heading home to her Westwood apartment when she was killed. Her Mercedes-Benz jumped a curb and plowed into a light post around 12:30 a.m. Tuesday. Neighbors found her slumped over the steering wheel bleeding from the nose and chest. A makeshift memorial of candles and flowers lie on the spot where she was killed.

Calls to the Beverly Hills Police Department spokesman are answered with a recording that says there are no new developments in the Chasen case; that there is $125,000 reward for information leading to an arrest, and refers callers to a tip-line where they can submit clues or information.

Police have uncovered no leads or motive for the deadly attack. A look into Chasen’s history reveals three civil lawsuits. Chasen sued the owners of a climate-controlled storage unit when she discovered mold had destroyed her clothes and other belongings in 2005. In another case, Chasen filed suit after falling and hurting her hip on an improperly paved mini mall over a decade ago. The third involved a traffic incident.

“They weren’t monster dollar settlements,” says Chasen’s former attorney Gregory Chudacoff. “They weren’t like [something] someone would wait a decade and kill someone over.”

Christine Pelisek is staff reporter for The Daily Beast, covering crime. She previously was a reporter at the LA Weekly, where she covered crime for the last five years. In 2008, she won three Los Angeles Press Club awards, one for her investigative story on the Grim Sleeper.