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Home searched in hunt for missing movie executive

Homicide detectives remove boxes, a computer and an SUV in the investigation into the disappearance of Gavin Smith, who vanished May 1.

June 10, 2012|By Melissa Leu and Andrew Blankstein, Los Angeles Times
  • A tow truck driver loads an SUV that was removed during the search for clues in the case of Gavin Smith.
A tow truck driver loads an SUV that was removed during the search for clues… (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles…)

Sheriff's investigators searched a home in the San Fernando Valley on Friday in connection with the case of missing 20th Century Fox movie executive Gavin Smith, who disappeared more than a month ago.

County homicide investigators, along with a SWAT team, descended on a home in the 8600 block of Santa Susana Place in West Hills about 7:30 a.m., using a loudspeaker to tell residents to come out, according to neighbors. Investigators remained at the home for more than five hours before leaving the cul-de-sac with boxes and a computer. They also towed away a black Audi SUV.

Authorities refused to provide details about the search, but said no arrests had been made.

According to property records and neighbors, the house belongs to John and Chandrika Creech.

A lawyer who came to the home, Daniel Teola, said this was the second time in a month that deputies had searched the house. He refused to discuss the case or identify his clients.

Sheriff's Lt. Dave Dolson emphasized that the investigation remains a missing person case and not a homicide investigation.

"We don't have anything indicating there was foul play involved," Dolson said. "We are not ruling it out, of course.… Everything's still on the table."

A law enforcement source said that serving a search warrant in a missing persons case is highly unusual.

The search comes days after a $20,000 reward was offered as officials appealed to the public for information that could help solve the case.

Smith, a former UCLA basketball player who worked on distributing films such as "Titanic" and "Avatar," left a friend's home between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. on May 1 without telling anyone where he was going. He wore a pair of purple athletic pants belonging to one of his sons and left his cellphone charger, shaving kit and other items.

His family and authorities have been unable to locate him either through cellphone records or credit card billings.

Smith is 6 feet 6, weighs 210 pounds and has a goatee and gray hair streaked with blond. He was last seen in his black 2000 Mercedes 420-E with California license plates 6EKT044.

melissa.leu@latimes.com

andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

Times staff writer Matt Stevens contributed to this report.

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