The man who shot himself had bragged he killed Ronni Chasen for $10,000

By Ken Lee Sara Hammel
December 02, 2010 03:00 PM
Eric Charbonneau/Getty

The man wanted for questioning in the murder of Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen bragged about killing her in the weeks after her death, neighbors say.

The man, known as “Harold” around his home in the low-income Harvey Apartments in Hollywood where he lived for about three months, said he was paid to shoot her.

“I heard Harold brag a few weeks ago that he killed Ronni Chasen,” Terri Gilpin, a resident at the apartment complex since last December, tells PEOPLE. “He said ‘You know that publicist they’re talking about on TV? Yeah, I killed her. I’m getting $10,000 for killing her. I did it, I did it’ he said.”

RELATED: VIDEO: Possible Clue in the Murder of Hollywood Publicist?

It’s not known whether the man was telling the truth, and neighbors raised questions about his mental state. The man was characterized by a Beverly Hills police spokesman as a “person of interest,” but multiple news reports say authorities considered him a possible suspect.

“Harold,” whose identity hasn’t been released, was a tall, slim African-American man in his 40s. He fatally shot himself Wednesday after being confronted by detectives who say they were only looking to question him.

Gilpin, 46, told PEOPLE that “Harold” claimed to be no stranger to a life of crime.

“He’d often brag that he had a gun and would kill anyone who got in his way,” Gilpin recalls. “He told my husband he’d been to prison twice (for drug charges and a weapons charge), and that he’d rather die than go back.”

Other neighbors at the run-down, four-story building on a busy street in Hollywood seem to agree that the man’s mental state was a concern.

At least one person who says he knew Harold doesn’t believe he was the perpetrator. Sammy Zamorano, who owns a music studio next door, says the man was “weird” but didn’t seem like a killer.

“He used to hang out on the street here for hours,” Zamorano tells PEOPLE. “He told a friend of mine that he was gonna rob someone. But there’s absolutely no way [he murdered Chasen]. I don’t think he had the intelligence to pull it off, he wasn’t professional enough, no one would’ve wanted to hire this guy to commit a murder. This guy was just off. I don’t think he was capable of it.”

Gilpin, too, admitted it was difficult to sift through Harold’s stories for the truth.

“My husband said Harold was always telling different stories about himself, that Harold’s nutty and crazy and to keep away from him, so I was always trying to avoid him,” Gilpin says. “He was always talking crazy stuff. So my husband just brushed it off. My husband would say ‘This guy’s just talking out of his ass.'”

She added that he was moody, would “wring his hands a lot” and appeared to be “mentally ill” or perhaps a drug addict.

As for who might have ordered the alleged hit, Deadline Hollywood is reporting police are searching Harold’s apartment to rule out at least one possible scenario, and cites a police source as saying: “If the subject turns out to have what police are looking for in his room, they can rule out that this was a mob hit.”

Chasen, 64, was shot multiple times in Beverly Hills while driving her Mercedes-Benz in the early morning hours of Nov. 16 after leaving a party for the Burlesque premiere. No motive or official suspects have been revealed so far by police.