A convicted drug dealer was indicted Wednesday in the slaying of a 20th Century Fox executive whose remains were found in a remote area of Acton.
The grand jury indictment against John Creech, who was previously charged with the May 2012 killing of Gavin Smith, ramps up the charges to make him eligible for the death penalty and avoid a preliminary hearing.
Wednesday's indictment added the special circumstance allegation that Creech committed the killing while lying in wait. The district attorney's office has yet to decide whether to seek the death penalty.
Creech, whose wife was friends with Smith, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to the accusations in the indictment. His attorney, Alex Kessel, has insisted Smith died after being injured during mutual combat with Creech.
Smith, 57, a former UCLA basketball player under Coach John Wooden, was last seen alive May 1, 2012, leaving a friend's home in Ventura County. After an extensive search, Smith's black Mercedes-Benz 420E was found a year later at a Simi Valley storage facility tied to Creech. Smith's remains were discovered last October in a remote area off a road near Acton.
Creech, who is currently serving an eight-year sentence for sale or transportation of drugs, told a Times reporter after Smith's disappearance that he never met the movie executive.
Sheriff's homicide detectives believe the killing is connected to the relationship between Smith and Creech's wife, who met in a rehabilitation program. Even before Smith's car and body were found, they had begun focusing on Creech as a suspect.
In a previous interview, Kessel acknowledged that Creech knew Smith was seeing his wife years earlier and asked him to stop. Creech didn't know the two had kept in contact after that, Kessel said. Creech was separated from his wife at the time of Smith's death and was involved in a relationship with someone else, Kessel said.
Kessel said his client was attacked by Smith on a residential street in Chatsworth. "It was total self-defense. It was mutual combat," Kessel said. "Unfortunately, one person received an injury…. There may be a number of contributors to his death."
Smith's wife, Lisa, however, has called the killing "cold blooded" and the pain inflicted on her family "incomprehensible."