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Originally published Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 12:35 PM

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Missing LA-area movie exec now believed murdered

The 10-month search for a movie executive has gone from a missing persons investigation to a murder investigation, and a convicted drug dealer has been named a person of interest.

Associated Press

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LOS ANGELES —

The 10-month search for a movie executive has gone from a missing persons investigation to a murder investigation, and a convicted drug dealer has been named a person of interest.

Authorities said they had found the Mercedes-Benz of 20th Century Fox executive Gavin Smith at a storage facility, and the condition of the car along with witness statements has led them to believe Smith was killed, though his body has not been found.

The car, registered to Smith, 57, was found Feb. 21 at the facility in Simi Valley, Los Angeles County sheriff's Lt. Dave Dolson said.

The storage facility was linked to John Creech, a man who has been in prison since June serving an eight-year sentence on an unrelated drug conviction for sales or transport of narcotics, Dolson said.

Dolson said the Fox executive had "some kind of relationship" with Creech's wife, Chandrika, after meeting her in rehab a few years ago, but he declined to provide details.

Dolson said investigators have focusing on Creech for a long time, but stopped short of calling him a suspect.

"He has been a person of interest for several months, and he's still that person of interest," Dolson said.

Smith, who was with Fox's movie distribution department for nearly 18 years, was last seen May 1 in Ventura County's Oak Park neighborhood after leaving a friend's home at about 9:35 p.m. wearing a gray shirt and dark athletic shorts, Dolson said.

Authorities believe Smith's car was in the Porter Ranch area of the San Fernando Valley about a week after he was last seen, and was eventually moved to the storage facility by two people. That storage facility is linked to a person "who has a very close association" to Creech, Dolson said.

Dolson said investigators have served 25 to 30 search warrants in the case - primarily in the San Fernando Valley area - including on Creech's home and his SUV.

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Tami Abdollah can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/latams

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