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Convicted drug dealer charged with murder of ex-UH basketball player


  • 20th Century Fox executive Gavin Smith, whose remains were found in a northern Los Angeles County desert area in October. (AP Photo/Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, File)
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LOS ANGELES >> A convicted drug dealer was charged Thursday with the murder of a 20th Century Fox executive and former University of Hawaii basketball player, who mysteriously disappeared more than two years ago and whose remains were found in a northern Los Angeles County desert area in October.

John Lenzie Creech, 42, was charged Thursday with 57-year-old Gavin Smith’s death, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

Smith was last seen leaving a female friend’s home in Ventura County’s Oak Park neighborhood on May 1, 2012. Hikers discovered the remains about 70 miles away, near Palmdale in the Antelope Valley, on Oct. 26, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.

Smith was with Fox’s movie distribution department for nearly 18 years and was a branch manager for several theaters.

Smith transferred to UH from UCLA where he played on the 1975 NCAA championship basketball team. He played one season for the Rainbows in 1976-77 when he scored an average of 23.4 points a game for a team that went 9-18 under Larry Little. Smith’s single-season scoring average was a program record that still stands today. He scored 30 or more points five times at UH.

Authorities said earlier they had found Smith’s Mercedes-Benz at a Simi Valley storage facility nine months after his disappearance. Its condition along with witness statements led them to believe Smith was killed. Investigators found Smith’s blood and body tissue, including skin stuck to the car’s seat.

Creech has been a longtime person of interest in the Sheriff’s Department investigation.

The storage facility where Smith’s car was found was linked to Creech, who is serving an eight-year jail sentence after pleading no contest to one count of transportation for sale of a controlled substance in September 2012.

A law enforcement official previously told the AP that Smith was believed to have had a romantic relationship with Creech’s wife, Chandrika, after meeting her in drug rehabilitation several years earlier.

Creech is scheduled to be arraigned on the new felony charge Monday. If convicted, he faces 25 years to life in state prison.

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