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Missing Hollywood executive declared dead: Los Angeles county official

(Reuters) - A Hollywood studio executive who investigators said may have been murdered was declared dead on Thursday, the second anniversary of his mysterious disappearance, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said.

Gavin Smith, a 57-year-old film distribution executive for 20th Century Fox, 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 the film studio to issue a statement expressing concern.

"A death certificate was issued," Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Deputy Quiana Birkbeck said on Thursday. She declined to comment further.

Another sheriff's deputy, who declined to be named, said he did not believe Smith's body had been recovered and said the investigation was ongoing.

Smith was also known for playing on UCLA's 1975 national championship basketball team. After he disappeared, Smith's family posted a $20,000 reward for information and, along with authorities, pleaded with the public for help.

The discovery of Smith's Mercedes inside a storage facility in February 2013 was thought to have been a break in the case.

The facility was linked to John Creech, a man who was imprisoned in a Los Angeles County jail on an unrelated narcotics conviction.

Creech, who was considered a "person of interest" in the case, was not charged in the disappearance, the sheriff's department said, adding that Smith had met Creech's wife in rehab in 2009. It was unclear the extent of Smith's relationship to her husband.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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