LOS ANGELES (AP) — Southern California authorities said they've found the car of a 20th Century Fox executive who vanished 10 months ago and now believe he was murdered.
Los Angeles County sheriff's Lt. Dave Dolson said a Mercedes-Benz registered to Gavin Smith was found Feb. 21 at a Simi Valley storage facility. Dolson said that storage facility was linked to John Creech, a man who is in jail on an unrelated drug conviction.
Creech, 40, has been in custody since June 22 on an eight-year sentence for sales or transport of narcotics, Dolson said.
"He has been a person of interest for several months, and he's still that person of interest," Dolson said.
Smith, 57, was last seen May 1 in Ventura County's Oak Park neighborhood after leaving a friend's home at about 9:35 p.m. wearing a gray shirt and dark athletic shorts, Dolson said.
The case has been classified as a homicide even though Smith's body has not been located.
Dolson said the condition of Smith's Mercedes-Benz, along with witness statements, led them to believe Smith was no longer alive and had been killed.
Authorities believe Smith's black Mercedes-Benz was in the Porter Ranch area of the San Fernando Valley on or about May 8 or 9 and eventually moved to the Simi Valley storage facility by two people. That storage facility is linked to a person "who has a very close association" to Creech, Dolson said.
Dolson said investigators have served 25 to 30 search warrants in the case — primarily in the San Fernando Valley area — including on Creech's home and his Hummer.
The connection between Smith and Creech remains somewhat unclear.
Dolson said Smith had "some kind of relationship" with Creech's wife, Chandrika, after meeting her in rehab a couple years ago. Dolson declined to provide detail.
"When (Smith) goes missing of course we're going to talk to family and we're going to look at all of his relationships and his lifestyle and try to go from there," he said. "When you don't have anything to go on, that's where you start."
Several searches were also conducted early on in the investigation but those proved fruitless, Dolson said.
Smith was with Fox's movie distribution department for nearly 18 years and was a branch manager for several theaters.
Tami Abdollah can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/latams