Convicted drug dealer charged with murder of Fox movie executive Gavin Smith

A convicted drug dealer has been charged with the murder of a 20th Century Fox executive, who mysteriously disappeared more than two years ago and whose remains were found in a northern Los Angeles County desert area in October.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office said 42-year-old John Lenzie Creech was charged Thursday with 57-year-old Gavin Smith's death. Smith was last seen leaving a friend's home on May 1, 2012.

Creech is serving an eight-year jail sentence after pleading no contest to one count of transportation for sale of a controlled substance in September 2012.

Creech, a longtime person of interest in the Sheriff's Department investigation, is scheduled to be arraigned on the new felony charge Monday.

If convicted, he faces 25 years to life in state prison.

Authorities said they believe that Smith, a former 20th Century Fox executive and UCLA basketball player, was murdered in his car before his body was dumped in a shallow grave in a California national forest more than two years ago.

Smith's remains were found Oct. 26 in the Angeles National Forest, in rural Palmdale. At the time, Lt. Dave Dolson of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's homicide bureau said the manner and cause of death had not been determined, though he said, "There's indications that there was some trauma." A law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation told the Associated Press that when authorities found Smith's Mercedes-Benz in 2013 there was enough blood and body tissue to believe he'd been killed.

Smith, who played college basketball for legendary UCLA Coach John Wooden, was last seen alive leaving a female friend's home in Ventura County the night of May 1, 2012, in the black, 2000-model Mercedes-Benz 420 E.

In February 2013, investigators acting on a tip found Smith’s car in a Simi Valley storage locker linked to James Creech, who is serving an eight-year sentence for an unrelated drug conviction. Undisclosed evidence discovered in the car indicated Smith had met with foul play, police said at the time.

A SWAT team and police detectives had already raided an LA-area home owned by Creech a month after the executive disappeared in a search for evidence of a felony sources said at the time may have been related to Smith's disappearance. Smith had reportedly met Creech's wife, Chandrika Creech, in rehab, although Creech has denied knowing Smith.

A dog accompanying hikers alerted the group to human remains on Oct. 26 in what Dolson described as "rugged and vast" terrain. Authorities confirmed through dental records that the remains belonged to Smith.

Smith, a married father of three, was estranged from his family at the time of his disappearance. He was officially declared dead on May 1, 2014.

Smith worked in the movie industry for 18 years and helped distribute blockbuster hits such as "Avatar" and the "Star Wars" trilogy. The executive, who was 6 feet, 6 inches tall, was also a member of UCLA's 1975 national championship men's basketball team. Smith's family, including his son Evan, a former forward for USC's basketball team, has declined to comment about the case.'s Cristina Corbin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.