When the female body washed up on a beach by Camp Pendleton, a Marine Corps base north of San Diego, it was so slim and youthful-looking that investigators initially assumed she was a teenager.
It was only later that the remains were determined to be those of a 58-year-old former model and B-list actress who had once aspired to be known as “the sexiest woman in the world.”
Anneka Vasta, known as Anneka Di Lorenzo in the 1970s and the 1975 Penthouse Pet of the Year, was found earlier this year in a restricted area of the base with her neck and back broken. But investigators are struggling to determine whether she took her own life, died accidentally or fell victim to a murderer.
Mental Health Problems
The mystery is the latest chapter in her sad life story. After becoming a Pet of the Year, she acted in Caligula and other films and dated Penthouse magazine publisher Bob Guccione – a relationship that devolved into a bitter sexual harassment case.
She went on to become a nursing assistant who was very chatty with strangers – perhaps too much so, family members say. But she had a history of mental health problems, including paranoia, and she was on medications – although an autopsy found no drugs in her body.
Investigators say Vasta parked at a vista point atop 60-foot bluffs, but her body was found on rocky sand about a mile south. If Vasta jumped or fell, she wouldn’t have hit the water, because the tide isn’t high enough, they say.
“The main unanswered question that we have is how she got from her vehicle to the water,” Navy special agent Rachel McGranaghan tells the San Diego Union-Tribune. “We know her life ended in the water, in some circumstance, we just don’t know how.”
Signs of Blood
On Jan. 2, two days before her body was found, Vasta rented a room at a Motel 6. There’s no evidence she actually used the room.
Inside her 2001 Mazda 626 sedan were signs of trauma. A woman’s leopard-print blouse and a sports bra, stained with blood, were wrapped in a plastic bag that investigators believe is an ice bucket liner from the Motel 6.
A steak knife covered with Vasta’s blood lay on the passenger floorboard. There were slashes on Vasta’s wrist, but not deep enough to kill her.
Family members say Vasta had a daughter in college whom she spoke with every day, and she would not have committed suicide. They speculate someone may have killed her.
As Vasta’s sister, Susan Thoreson, tells the Union-Tribune: “I think something happened when Anneka couldn’t maybe fend for herself.”