Updated at 1 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 6
Authorities on Thursday said the body of missing 20th Century Fox distribution executive Gavin Smith — which was found about 2 1/2 years after he went missing — was in a “shallow grave,” and the cause of his death will have to be determined by an autopsy.
A man walking with his dog found Smith’s remains in a “shallow grave” in a rural area on the south side of Palmdale near the border with Acton on Oct. 26, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. David Dolson said at a news conference this morning.
Smith was last seen between 9 and 10 p.m. on May 1, 2012, leaving a female friend’s home off Kanan Road in eastern Ventura County in his black 2000 Mercedes-Benz 420 E.
Smith was ruled dead on May 1, the two-year anniversary of his disappearance, with the date of death listed as the day he disappeared.
He had played basketball at UCLA in the 1970s and was 57 years old when he disappeared.
Smith’s Mercedes was recovered on Feb. 21, 2013, at a storage facility in Simi Valley.
“After examining Gavin’s car, we were able to confidently label Gavin’s death a homicide,” Dolson said. The cause of death will have to be determined by an autopsy, Dolson said.
“The investigation at this time is ongoing,” Dolson said. “Because of the discovery of Gavin’s remains, there’s potentially a lot more evidence for us to process, which could develop additional leads, which we’ll have to follow up on.”
Dolson said investigators have not ruled out the possibility that Smith had been shot, but said, “we don’t believe at this time that that was in play.”
“There (are) indications that there is some trauma” to the body, Dolson said.
Authorities earlier said the storage facility where Smith’s car was found was linked to John Creech, who was in custody at the Men’s Central Jail on an unrelated narcotics conviction when the search took place.
Creech is now serving an eight-year sentence.
Dolson said today that Creech “is still a person of interest.”
“His status remains the same to us at this time,” Dolson said. “There is still a lot of additional investigation and evidence to be analyzed … at this point, we are not charging anybody with anything.”
Dolson declined to speculate on a motive for the killing.
In June 2012, detectives and a SWAT team raided a West Hills home owned by Creech. The Los Angeles Times later reported it had obtained documents indicating sheriff’s deputies felt an unspecified felony related to Smith’s disappearance may have occurred there.
Smith met Creech’s wife, Chandrika Creech, in some sort of rehab therapy, according to the newspaper, which reported that Creech has denied knowing Smith, despite his wife saying otherwise.
Bill McSweeney, chief of the Sheriff’s Detective Bureau, told The Times on May 1 that investigators “have physical evidence” of Smith’s death.
Dolson said last year that after detectives found Smith’s car, they served several search warrants in the San Fernando Valley and began investigating the death as a homicide “based on the vehicle’s condition and information developed from persons cooperating in the investigation.”
—City News Service
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: