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Authorities know ‘how and why’ Fox movie exec Gavin Smith was killed

Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said Thursday that detectives believe they know “how and why” Fox movie executive Gavin Smith was killed, saying that the discovery of his remains brought them closer to an arrest in the case.

Investigators have served dozens of warrants and collected hundreds of pieces of evidence in the investigation, which began when Smith, 57, was reported missing May 2, 2012, Sheriff’s Lt. Dave Dolson told reporters. His remains were discovered Oct. 26 in the desert north of Los Angeles, and were formally identified using dental records.

Dolson called the remains a “crucial piece of evidence.”

The “examination of the body will hopefully lead us to some additional leads and potentially help solidify an arrest and a conviction,” Dolson said.

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He declined to go into detail about the investigation, but said evidence recovered from Smith’s car -- which was found at a Simi Valley storage facility in February 2013 – indicated the executive was killed inside the Mercedes-Benz.

There were also “indications” of some trauma to his body, Dolson said.

A convicted drug dealer, John Creech, was publicly named a “person of interest” in the case, and Dolson said he remained so as of Thursday.

“At this point, we are not charging anybody with anything,” Dolson said. “We’re optimistic that some time in the future we’ll be able to.”

The exact manner in which Smith died hasn’t been determined, but he was probably killed at the direction of an individual and with the assistance of others experienced in violent crime, according to law enforcement sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because there are not authorized to publicly discuss the case.

Los Angeles County coroner’s officials said Thursday that they may never determine how exactly Smith was killed or how his remains turned up in the desert outside Palmdale.

“It could be months, if ever, worst-case scenario,” coroner’s Lt. David Smith said.

Palmdale resident Rocky Ramos first came across the skull while exploring a dirt road several miles from his home with his wife and granddaughter.

“I was tripping out man,” Ramos said Thursday, recounting the grim discovery the day before.

Ramos said the road he was exploring in his silver Toyota truck is known locally as a dumping spot. Ripped-up sofas, old mattresses and a blanket of spent 12-guage shotgun shell litter the sides of the road.

He said he hopped from his truck and began taking photos with his iPhone, nudging the skull over with his right foot to get various angles.

“It had no lower jaw or eye sockets,” Ramos recalled. “It had some hair on it, too,”

Ramos said he and his wife debated whether the skull was real and finally returned home where he showed the pictures to his daughter, who encouraged him to call the authorities.

He said he called the Sheriff’s Department to report his discovery. “Usually the police take a while to get here, but let me tell you, they were here pretty quick,” Ramos said.

Ramos said the deputies looked at the photos and asked him to take them to the location. When they reached the site, he said the deputies looked at the skull.

“I heard one deputy say ‘oh yeah, it’s real.’ ” he said.

On the return trip, Ramos said he also saw what appeared to be a blue shirt, workout shorts and tennis shoes.

Ramos said he didn’t know the remains were those of the long-missing Fox executive until reporters told him late Wednesday.

“Hopefully it’s closure for the family,” he said.

Smith, who was legally declared dead May 1, was last seen leaving a female friend’s house in Ventura County. Numerous searches of the area were conducted after he disappeared, and his family posted a $20,000 reward.

In February 2013, following a tip, investigators found Smith’s car in a Simi Valley storage locker that authorities said was linked to John Creech, who had received an eight-year prison sentence for an unrelated drug conviction.

At the time, Sheriff’s Department officials said the condition of the vehicle and witness statements indicated that Smith had been killed. They said they had “a good idea” concerning a motive in the case, but they declined to discuss it.

Creech told a Times reporter at his sentencing that he had never met Smith, but deputies said there was some type of relationship between Smith and Creech’s wife, whom he met in rehab.

Dolson told The Times that the two knew each other, but he declined to comment on whether the relationship was romantic.

Creech, who was arrested by Glendale police in a drug bust, pleaded no contest in 2012 to one count of selling and transporting cocaine. He told police he was a middle-man between drug producers and lower-level street dealers.

Authorities said they do not believe that Smith was involved with drugs.

Times reporters Joseph Serna and ruben Vives contributed to this report.

Follow the reporters on Twitter: @LAcrimes and @katemather


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