LOS ANGELES – The man who killed himself just as police zeroed in on him as a "person of interest" in the slaying of a prominent Hollywood publicist was regarded as a danger by some of his apartment house neighbors but friendly by others.
One person said the man they knew as Harold Smith bragged about killing Ronni Chasen and was waiting to receive the $10,000 he was promised for the hit.
When detectives tried to question him in the lobby of the dreary Harvey Apartments Wednesday night, the man raised a gun to his head and shot himself to death. Authorities would not confirm his identity.
Sammy Zamorano, who works in a nearby music studio, was in the four-story building shortly after the suicide. He said the body was slumped against a wall with arms on either side. Blood sprayed the lobby.
Zamorano said the man spent hours each day hanging around outside the building, always had a bicycle and usually wore gloves. "To me he was mental, criminal, but not so sophisticated. He had very bad vibes," Zamorano said.
Zamorano said he did not believe the man could have carried out a seemingly professional hit.
Terri Gilpin, 46, said the man always seemed paranoid, would ask if police were looking for him, and "had a screw loose." She said she once called police on him because he wandered into her apartment.
She said she heard him bragging about Chasen's killing and talking about how he was going to be paid $10,000 and was waiting on the money. She said he told her, "You know that lady on TV, that publicist? I did it, I did it."
Chasen, 64, was shot multiple times last month as she drove home in her Mercedes from a party after attending the premiere of the movie "Burlesque," whose soundtrack she was promoting for an Oscar nomination.
Asked why she didn't call police after hearing his comments, Gilpin said she and her husband didn't believe him.
But at least one person painted a brighter picture of the man who lived in Apartment 329 by a fire escape at the back of the housing complex.
The man moved in sometime this year and was friendly and well-known in the building, said resident Robin Lyle, 44, who lived next door to him. "He always told me how much he liked me," he said.
Lyle said the man had been in prison and was concerned about how hard it would be to find work. He told him about a lawsuit that he filed against his former employer and the settlement he was expecting for wrongful termination.
"I'm waiting on this money, and then you're not going to see me anymore," Lyle remembered him saying.
Since Chasen's killing, speculation has reigned about who could have killed her and why. Police have said they were considering all possibilities, including that someone ordered her killed.
On Thursday, detectives released few details about the case's progress or if they had settled on a motive.
The dead man had been identified, but his name was being withheld pending notification of family, the coroner's office said.
Detectives reviewed surveillance video from the Harvey Apartments' lobby and confirmed the man died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Police recovered the handgun and planned to do ballistics testing.
Beverly Hills police Chief David Snowden told The Associated Press in an e-mail that the man "was a person of interest only" and a police spokesman emphasized that the murder investigation was not over.
John Walsh, host of the Fox series "America's Most Wanted," told The Los Angeles Times a tip provided by the show helped lead police to the man. A segment on the killing was featured on the show on Nov. 20.
"I believe they responded to a tip that we had passed on. BHPD reached out to us," Walsh told The Times. "We have been working closely with Beverly Hills (police).
Beverly Hills police did not immediately respond to e-mail and phone messages from The Associated Press Thursday night seeking a response to Walsh's comments.
The latest turn in the mystery left Chasen's friends wondering who the man at the hotel was and if, indeed, he was a hit man.
"A lot of people think it's a hit. A lot," said singer-songwriter Carol Connors, a friend of Chasen for more than 35 years. "It's really bizarre that he shot himself unless he really knew something."
Academy Award-winning composer Hans Zimmer will remember Chasen when he receives a star Wednesday on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. A statement from organizers said Zimmer will dedicate his star to his longtime friend and publicist.
Associated Press writers John Rogers, Greg Risling, Anthony McCartney and Raquel Maria Dillon contributed to this report.