11/26/2010 09:44 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Ronni Chasen Death Spurs Storm of Unfounded Media Speculation

I heard from quite a few people about the shooting of Ronni Chasen, whom I'd known for decades. Based on what one sees about the case in the news and on the web, and the scarcity of details, it's quite understandable that people speculate about what happened. At the same time, however, speculation -- like professional hits, love triangles, and hired killers -- implies something seedy or dark was going on in Ronni's life -- and there just isn't anything we've seen to indicate that.

Some people thought the number of shots, or that all the shots were in the chest implied a professional killing. But neither of these things on its own reveals anything about motive or circumstance. Remember, when it's a single shot to the head, people say professional hit. When it's two shots to the back of the head... execution-style killing, gangland style hit, or coup de grace. When a victim is shot while walking to her house, they say lying in wait, professional hit.

And of course when there is no new information on a case, some reporters get more creative:





Here's what I do observe in this case: Someone shooting a person five times meant to kill the person they shot; in other words, it wasn't a shot fired through the window at a passing car. And... people get pissed off enough to get out of cars, walk up to the car that pissed them off, and shoot the driver with the intent to kill the driver. That's not my theory, for there just isn't enough right now information to develop a theory, but that hasn't stopped headlines such as CHASEN MURDER MAY HAVE BEEN PROFESSIONAL HIT.

Yes, and it may have been many things.

To determine if Ronni was killed by someone who meant to kill her specifically, i.e., if something personal to her is involved, cops will look at many things, including beneficiaries of any life insurance policies, personal relationships, etc. So far, nothing in that arena has surfaced.

There is a news story quoting someone saying Ronni "thought she was being followed for months." That story was in the New York Post, identifying the source for the story as "a source."

I think Ronni would likely have called me if she really felt that she was being followed for months -- not long ago she was talking to one of our people and asked him to say hello to me, and noted our long years of knowing each other; my point is that the option of talking with me was readily available in Ronni's mental landscape if she felt she was being followed for months.

Professional hit is what people start saying when no theory emerges, when some explanation is needed. People want resolution with these crimes, and not just those who knew the victim. All people prefer a story they can tell themselves wouldn't likely happen to them. If it turns out that the shooting was unrelated to Ronni personally, then it could happen to anyone -- and that concept is not palatable to most people.

I worked extensively on the murder case of Ennis Cosby, and though there were more details in that case than in this case, there was nonetheless very little information, and lots of mystery for quite some time. (It was eventually solved, and turned out to be unrelated to Ennis personally -- could have happened to anyone.)

People take the few details and turn them over a thousand times, like looking for your missing car keys and checking the same place again and again. People want to weave those too-few details into some kind of narrative that makes sense. Since most people have no experience with homicide or investigation, the narratives they are familiar with come from TV shows. So they look for that kind of narrative: a story with familiar colors.

In reality however, there are lots of homicides that are very short stories -- and would not make good TV dramas.

Though I don't have any inside information on this case, I've read those speculative stories about it being a professional hit, and there just hasn't been any meaningful content there -- no facts or underpinning to support that conclusion.

What there has been is classic No-News media reporting, like the one from Fox News that appeared under the headline HOLLYWOOD PUBLICIST RONNI CHASEN'S MURDER LOOKS PROFESSIONAL AND PREMEDITATED, EXPERTS SAY.

The article then quotes only one person who could be called an expert, a former FBI agent who was forensic accountant specializing in financial and white collar investigations; and oh yeah, a guy who's been interviewed extensively on... Fox News of all places. While no other expert appears in the article, there are some people glad to pretend. I'm not going to quote the whole article -- only the ridiculous parts -- so it's almost the whole article.

Some excerpts:

Experts say evidence is starting to suggest that the murder of veteran Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen was a premeditated, professional drive-by shooting and not a random act of violence as initially speculated, reported Monday.

Actually, no new evidence I've seen is starting to suggest a professional hit, but indeed, some reporters are starting to suggest it, and getting the quotes they need to do so.

Another 90210 resident, who requested anonymity, said that the evening before the incident, the resident was surprised to hear motorcycles traveling up and down the area.

The person you're about to see quoted isn't actually fully identified in the article, but I think it's Hollywood publicist Michael Sands.

"Never before in my 40 years [forty years of what?] have I seen motorcycles pacing Whittier Drive," a surprised Michael Sands, who has spent several decades working with police officials and the FBI on high-profile cases, told Pop Tarts.

Though we aren't told in what capacity he was supposedly "working with police officials and the FBI," the next quote of his is just what the article needed.

"It's all speculation, but if it was a hired hit job -- which it sounds like it was -- there is usually a scout, a tracker and a wet man who finishes the job. It is possible the location was being properly scouted out the night before."

Huh? Properly scouting out the location the night before? You mean on that street nobody could possibly know Ronni would choose to take driving from a Hollywood event to her home in Westwood? You mean the route that's among a hundred she could have taken? For some plot to shoot her while she's driving?

But the better nonsense is contained in the quote about what's "usually" done in a hired hit job, that standard operation described as "a scout, a tracker, and a wet man." Dear Hollywood publicist Michael Sands: Can you please give me some examples of "hired hit jobs" in which this method was applied? You know, "a scout, a tracker and a wet man." By the way, a Google search for the authentic-sounding vernacular "scout, tracker, and wet man" produces just one result: THIS NEWS STORY!

"I would like to assure the public that this was a rare, isolated incident," Beverly Hills Police Chief Snowden said in a statement on Friday. "The Beverly Hills community remains one of the safest in the world."

Agreed. Factual, actual information -- but the article has another take on the Chief's statement...

Nonetheless, this isn't the first time tragedy has struck that very area where Chasen was killed.

In 1946, [65 years ago!] controversial filmmaker Howard Hughes crashed his plane into a nearby home on Whittier Drive. While he miraculously survived despite severe third-degree burns and broken limbs, the plane was destroyed and the house burned down. The following year, in an unsolved mystery, infamous L.A organized crime professional Bugsy Siegel was shot dead when an unknown assailant fired at him through the window of his home in that same area.

Describing the murder of gangster Bugsy Siegel as "an unsolved mystery" is classic. Gee, I wonder if Bugsy Siegel had any enemies who might have killed him? There's hardly any mystery to that case.

And in 1979 [just thirty-one years ago] a block away, the wife, son, and young friend of Lloyd Cotsen, the president of skincare empire Neutrogena, were murdered in Cotsen's Beverly Hills home.

Actually a few blocks away, but who's counting? Not Fox News.

In more disturbing news, reports emerged last week that six unnamed Hollywood casting directors had filed reports after receiving anonymous death threats at their offices.

That's more disturbing news than people being murdered??

While there is no proof suggesting the incidents could be in any way related, as Chasen was a publicist and not an agent, Hollywood seems to be showing its dark side.

Right, there's nothing suggesting that those irrelevant and bogus threats are in any way related to the murder of Ronni Chasen, but we'll just toss it in to show the emerging pattern: Howard Hughes crashes his plane, Bugsy Seigel gets killed (who could ever have predicted that one?), and a sad shooting by a business litigant 31-years ago in the same city... it's starting to add up, isn't it? No. It doesn't add up to Ronni Chasen being killed by a professional hit team.

I'll stop excerpting that ridiculous Fox News article now -- though it actually gets worse, ending with a warning about how vicious a place Hollywood is now, and how you have to be mindful of everyone around you.

Thankfully, that's not the kind of legacy Ronni leaves behind, nor how she conducted her life. Her death is sad for those of us who liked or loved her, and terrible things do sometimes happen without much explanation -- and those might end up being the main things we all take away.