The disappearance of a Fox distribution executive who has been missing for over a year was reclassified as a homicide investigation on Thursday, following the discovery of his car in a storage locker in Simi Valley, California.
Gavin Smith, 57, a father of three sons, is believed to be dead, although his body has never been found. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department found a car, reportedly a Mercedes 420E, registered to him in the aforementioned storage facility. The case had previously been classified as a missing persons case, although the reclassification process began about a month ago.
"We found the car and the car itself indicates preliminarily, that this was, in fact, a murder," Sheriff's spokesperson Steve Whitmore told KNBC news.
Whitmore told the Los Angeles Times that they have issued "several search warrants" in conjunction with the case.
According to the Times, the storage facility was linked to a convicted drug dealer, John Creech (currently jailed, for reasons unrelated to Smith), whose wife, Chandrika Creech, reportedly knew Smith through therapy they attended together. According to Deadline, Creech is a person of interest in the case.
Creech spoke with a Times reporter at an unrelated court hearing and said that he had never met Smith. When the reporter asked why Creech's property was searched, he replied: "I would love to tell you but I can't. I am told I cannot make any comments."
Smith has not been seen since he was leaving a friend's home in the Oak Park area last May. According to the Times, he was wearing purple athletic pants belonging to one of his sons, and he left behind his cellphone charger, shaving kit, and other items at the home.
Gavin's sister, Tara Smith Addeo, spoke exclusively with E! Online about these latest developments. "I don't think anything really prepares you for news when somebody you love so much has been killed at the hands of somebody else," she told E!. "It's tragic when it's an accident, but when you know it's on purpose, it just has a whole new light to it. Where I was beginning to lose hope that Gavin would be found alive, it's still very, very difficult, because you just think that somebody is going to be around forever, that you're going be around all the time ... So it's extremely upsetting."
Addeo also confirmed to E! that her brother and Chandrika had been romantically involved once two or three years go.
Smith's family has offered a $20,000 reward for any information that leads to his whereabouts.
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