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Remains of missing Hollywood executive identified

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[November 06, 2014]  (Reuters) - California authorities have positively identified the remains of a Hollywood studio executive who disappeared in mysterious circumstances in 2012, officials said on Wednesday.

Hikers near Palmdale, some 60 miles (97 km) north of Los Angeles, discovered human remains on Oct. 26 which were later identified as those of 20th Century Fox film distribution executive Gavin Smith, said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Nicole Nishida.

Nishida said that autopsy results have not been finalized and the cause of death has yet to be determined. She said the investigation was still ongoing.

Smith, 57, was last seen on the night of May 1, 2012, driving in his black Mercedes Benz away from a friend's house in Oak Park, northwest of Los Angeles.

His disappearance made national headlines and prompted his family to offer a $20,000 reward for information on his whereabouts. In May, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office declared Smith dead, two years after he had gone missing.

Smith was also known for playing on UCLA's 1975 national championship basketball team.

The discovery of Smith's Mercedes in February 2013 inside a storage facility linked to John Creech, a man who was imprisoned in a Los Angeles County jail on an unrelated narcotics conviction, was thought to have been a break in the case.

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Creech, who was considered a "person of interest" in the case, was not charged in the disappearance, the sheriff's department said then, adding that Smith had met Creech's wife in rehab in 2009.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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