11.24.10

New Twist in Publicist's Murder

Ronni Chasen seemingly drove a mysterious Mercedes that didn’t belong to her weeks before she was gunned down in her own car, a sergeant tells The Daily Beast. Christine Pelisek reports on the investigation.

A Beverly Hills Police Department sergeant, in an interview, says that the department has obtained video footage of what appears to be celebrity publicist Ronni Chasen driving a mystery Mercedes Benz a few weeks before she was gunned down on her way home from an afterparty for the movie Burlesque. The footage, which is dated October 28 at 7:55 a.m., shows Chasen driving out of her high-rise apartment and taking a left. According to Beverly Hills Police Department Sgt. Lincoln Hoshino, the Mercedes she was driving was not hers.

“It was not her car,” says Hoshino. “She is driving someone else’s car.”

The footage raises the question now about whose car the publicist was driving? And whether that person was a possible target?

Hoshino says the footage was given to detectives by TMZ who procured the videotape from a private investigator who was staking out the building in an unrelated case involving another person that lived in Chasen’s apartment complex.

Hoshino says the police department has received over 20 tips and has been interviewing friends, family members and workmates who were close to Chasen. “We are dissecting her life,” he says. Over half of the department’s detectives are investigating the grisly slaying.

According to a story on TMZ, Chasen's co-workers say it's not her driving the car.

A week after her death, detectives are still stumped. Detectives have no motive or clue why anyone would want to kill Chasen, who worked in Hollywood for more than 40 years. There are plenty of theories but no one knows exactly what happened to the popular publicist. Was the 64-year-old agent killed in an act of road rage? Was she followed from the W Hotel? Was she targeted, as some bloggers have suggested? Was she robbed?

A source close to the investigation told The Daily Beast that Chasen’s purse and money were not missing from the crime scene.

Chasen was fatally shot as she was driving home to Westwood from an afterparty for the premiere of the movie Burlesque, starring Cher and Christina Aguilera, at the W Hotel in Hollywood. She attended the party with her client songwriter Diane Warren and hobnobbed with her usual pals, celebrities, and agents.

Friends said Chasen left the party shortly after midnight. She traveled down Sunset Boulevard before making a left on North Whittier Drive, a quiet street with million-dollar mansions. A few minutes later, shots rang out into the night. Chasen was found slumped over the steering wheel of her Mercedes coupe, suffering from gunshot wounds. Her car had collided with a light post. Her passenger side window was shattered. Paramedics took her to Cedars Sinai Hospital, where she died of her injuries about an hour later.

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.