Gavin Smith, Missing Exec: Now It’s a Homicide Case

New evidence points to homicide—and a convicted drug dealer—in the Gavin Smith case. Christine Pelisek reports.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department/Reuters, via Landov

The strange case of Gavin Smith, the Hollywood executive who went missing last spring, has taken a chilling turn. Police now believe they have a murder on their hands after finding Smith’s Mercedes in a storage facility linked to a convicted drug dealer.

A tipster led detectives to the Simi Valley locker on February 21, where they found Smith’s 10-year-old Mercedes Benz. “Based on the condition of the vehicle and the witnesses that are cooperating,” Lt. Dave Dolson of the LAPD homcide bureau, “we believe Gavin Smith was murdered.”

The storage locker is linked to John Creech, a well-known drug dealer. His connection to Smith? Police believe the missing exec had an affair with the dealer’s wife. “There was a relationship” between Smith and Chandrika Creech, Dolson confirmed at the afternoon press conference. He wouldn’t say whether the two were in a relationship at the time of Smith’s disappearance.

Creech, who had been the subject of previous warrants in the search for Smith—his home and his Hummer were each looked at—is now a person of interest in the case. At the time of the disappearance, he was facing criminal charges; now he’s in jail on unrelated drug charges.

Police have yet to recover Smith’s body, but Dolson said that additional but unspecified evidence pointing to a homicide was found at “numerous locations.” Police also suspect that other people may have been involved “in the aftermath of moving the body.”

Smith, 57, a statuesque 6’6” former college basketball star and father of three, helped distribute movies such as Avatar and the second Star Wars trilogy. According to police, he had been staying with a friend in a ritzy neighborhood known as Oak Park when he vanished on May 1. The night of his disappearance, he left the house without saying a word and wearing a pair of purple athletic pants belonging to his son, and drove off in his Mercedes. Police say he left his personal belongings behind.Before working at Fox, Smith dabbled in acting, playing tiny roles in the movies, Swingin' in the Painter's Room, Cobb, and Glitz. Before he disappeared, he'd been talking about returning to acting after retirement.Smith's friends told The Daily Beast that Smith's marriage had been on the rocks at the time of his disappearance, and that the former basketball star was a "chick magnet."

Smith’s family is “heartbroken” at the latest evidence, Lt. Dolson said on Thursday, but prepared. “I think they embraced the possibility they might not see him again.”