The discovery of a Mercedes driven by a missing Fox executive when he disappeared 10 months ago has led police to reclassify the case as a homicide and link it to a drug dealer previously identified as a person of interest.
A black Mercedes Benz 420E registered to Gavin Smith was recovered at a storage facility in Simi Valley on Feb. 21, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department announced Thursday.
Smith, 57, was last seen driving the car from a friend's home in the Oak Park area at the western end of Los Angeles on May 1 between 9 and 10 p.m.
Investigators believe Smith was murdered within a week of his disappearance. His body has not been recovered.
"The family of Gavin Smith is grateful to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for its unending work on his disappearance," said Smith's widow Lisa in a statement. "We are both saddened and heartened by the discovery of this crucial evidence, and know that the sheriff's department will help us acquire a measure of justice."
The storage facility has been linked to John Creech, who is currently in custody at Men's Central Jail on an unrelated narcotics conviction, detectives said.
Creech was previously named a person of interest in the case, and his home was searched on June 8, 2012. Creech has not been charged in Smith's disappearance.
A member of a championship UCLA basketball team in 1975, Smith worked in media distribution for Fox. He also struggled with substance abuse.
Smith met Creech's wife, Chandrika, in rehab, authorities said.
Anyone with information about the case was asked to call homicide detectives.
"They specifically want to know if anybody saw this Mercedes Benz go from Porter Ranch to Simi Valley around May 8, May 9," department spokesman Steve Whitmore said.