THE CRIME

 

On Monday evening, November 15, 2010, Ronni Chasen attended the premiere of the Christina Aguilera & Cher movie Burlesque at Hollywood's famed Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard.  Ronni, and her second-in-command, Jeff Sanderson were at the premiere representing several of their Chasen & Company Public Relations clients, including the prolific songwriter Diane Warren. 

After the screening, the Burlesque crowd moved down the street to the W Hotel Hollywood for an after party at the penthouse level Club Drais.  Ronni, Jeff, Diane Warren and Warren's business manager Julie Horton mingled with their film colony counterparts up until the time Ronni left at almost exactly midnight.  Julie walked Ronni to the elevators where she bid her farewell, and as a result, was the last colleague of Ronni's to see her alive.

Ronni collected her 2010 Mercedes Benz E350 coupe, a vehicle she had newly leased in July, at the W's valet and set out westerly for home on Sunset Boulevard.  Ronni had traversed with east-west corridor repeatedly when commuting to her Westwood condo from screenings and other events in Hollywood.  Tonight would be no different.

Ronni's drive home was filled with her usual phone calls to the office.  Because Ronni was a night-owl, she had a tendency to stay up very late, often working on her various business-related tasks.  As a result, she would come into the office much later than the rest of her staff --- a habit that developed back in days of working for the pioneering Rogers & Cowan PR powerhouse during the late 1970's and 80's.  Her C&Co staffers were used to being hit by a barrage of "do this, do that" directives on their voicemail when they arrived at the office -- Ronni's way of getting a jump on the busy day even if she were still working at home in the morning.

Ronni's last call to her assistant Alana Kaas, who had worked for Ronni a little over a year, ended at approximately 12:20-12:21 a.m., which was approximately the time she crossed from the brightly lit Sunset strip to the darker residential stretch of Sunset that cuts a swath through the northern reaches of the City of Beverly Hills.    Ronni, passing the iconic Beverly Hills sign on Sunset, just blocks from the Beverly Hills Hotel, had no idea that she was in the last seven minutes of her life.

Without any witnesses or intersection cameras, we will likely never know the full story of what happened next.  What is clear:  while stopped for the red-left-turn-arrow at Sunset Boulevard and Whittier Drive, someone shot Ronni Chasen to death.  Four hollow-points exploded the tempered glass passenger window of the Mercedes with each projectile finding its way into Ronni with spot-on-precision.  The Los Angeles County Coroner has stated that the wounds were "rapidly fatal," which is defined as 60-seconds or less.

Ronni Chasen, even with her right shoulder destroyed by a bullet, managed to guide the 300-horsepower Mercedes through the originally intended left turn, leaving a trail of tempered glass through the intersection.   Ronni drove the vehicle south on Whittier.  A surveillance camera on the street even managed to catch Ronni's car coming to a brief rolling stop at the stop sign at Whittier and Linden.  Seconds later, Ronni put the Mercedes up on the curb and slammed the virtually-new vehicle into a concrete light post in front of 815 North Whittier.

First responders were on the scene within minutes after the Beverly Hills Police were besieged by a number of 911 phone calls.  An initial report indicated that an elapsed time of 6:38 passed between the time it was determined Ronni ended her last phone call and the time the police were summoned to the Whittier crash scene.  The burning question facing detectives:  what happened within that short period of time?

The first officers to respond -- beat cops -- followed the normal protocol involving a traffic collision.  What seemed puzzling was that, for a solo-car and fairly-low-speed impact, the unidentified 64-year old female behind the wheel was in grave condition.  One of the officers noted that, upon shining his light in her eyes, her pupils were fixed and dilated.

Paramedics arrived within a few minutes of the initial BHPD officers.  As they were putting Ronni on the customary backboard, one of the officers advised them to check Ronni for potential bullet wounds.  Eyewitnesses, as they began to congregate at the scene, advised officers that they had heard gunshots preceding the crash.  It took but a very cursory examination for the EMT's to realize that, indeed, Ronni Chasen was shot multiple times.

Ronni was rushed to Cedar Sinai Medical Center; despite evasive attempts to save her life, Ronni Chasen was pronounced dead at 1:12 a.m., November 16, 2010.

From here, what was already a bizarre and senseless crime would only become stranger.