An attorney for a convicted drug dealer charged with murder in the death of a Fox film executive, whose remains were found in the desert north of Los Angeles, called the case a tragic accident as the defendant appeared Monday in court.
Arraignment for John Lenzie Creech, 42, was postponed to Feb. 26. He did not enter a plea in connection with charges filed last week in the slaying of Fox executive Gavin Smith, who disappeared in May 2012 after leaving a friend's Ventura County home. The 57-year-old's black Mercedes-Benz was found at a Simi Valley storage facility linked to Creech, whose wife had what authorities described as "a relationship" with Smith.
Investigators with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department have not provided details regarding the nature of the relationship, which began when the two met in drug rehab.
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An attorney for Creech portrayed the case as a "tragic accident" that did not involve criminal intent.
"There may have been a fight but I can tell you there was no criminal intent," said Creech's attorney, Alex Kessel. "There was no malice. There was no intent, no premeditation for any type of homicide to take place."
Kessel also confirmed that Smith and Creech's wife met at a drug rehab and dated, but insisted there was no animosity between the men.
Creech was already in custody, serving an eight-year jail sentence on drug-related charges, when the district attorney filed the murder charge last week. In September 2012, he pleaded no contest to one count of sale or transportation for sale of a controlled substance.
He had previously been identified by investigators as a "person of interest" in the Smith case.
Smith's disappearance led to a widespread search for clues, including Creech's West Hills home in July 2013 and the desert north of Los Angeles where Smith's remains were found by hikers in October 2014. Investigators have said they believe Smith was killed the night he disappeared.
The remains included a skull missing a lower jaw and there appeared to be a hole, about an inch or more across, in the skull, investigators said. Authorities have not provided details regarding a cause of death and coroner's office confirmed Monday that information in the case remains under a security hold.
The discovery of the victim's vehicle Feb. 21, 2013 at the storage unit connected to Creech provided a major break in the case. After finding the car, investigators said they were "confidently able to label Gavin's death a homicide," sheriff's officials said in November.
Smith played basketball at UCLA and was part of the 1975 Bruins' championship team. He became an actor and later a film executive at 20th Century Fox.
Smith's wife and son, one of three children, were in court Monday.