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Tipster in Hollywood publicist murder wants reward

October 5, 2011

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LOS ANGELES—The tipster who led police to the killer of a Hollywood publicist last year is suing to collect the $125,000 in reward money that he has been unable to get from the two men who offered it.

In the suit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday, the tipster, identified only as John Doe, said Harold Matzner and Michael Levine, two friends of victim Ronni Chasen, have reneged on their promises to pay $100,000 and $25,000, respectively, for information solving the case.

Chasen, 64, was driving home through Beverly Hills from a movie premiere party on Nov. 16, 2010, when she was fatally shot in her car. The hit-style killing in sedate Beverly Hills shocked Hollywood circles.

Police had few leads until a tipster called "America's Most Wanted" with the name of Harold Martin Smith, a career criminal. Doe said he lived in the same Hollywood apartment complex as Smith and statements that Smith made to him led him to conclude that Smith committed the crime.

"America's Most Wanted" passed the tip to Beverly Hills police. When police confronted Smith at the apartment building on Dec. 1, 2010, he fatally shot himself.

Detectives definitively closed the case in July, concluding that Smith was indeed the killer and acted alone in what was likely a bungled robbery attempt.

In a letter to Doe's attorney included as an exhibit in the lawsuit, police Sgt. Michael Publicker wrote that Doe's "sole assistance" led to Smith's identification.

Despite that, Matzner and Levine have refused to pay the reward they offered, said the suit, which accuses them of fraud and breach of contract.

Matzner, who is chairman of the Palm Springs Film Festival, told the Palm Springs Desert Sun that he will not pay the reward because Smith was not arrested and convicted as the reward terms stipulated. He said he'll donate the money instead to a charity.

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