Like many others in pursuit of the Hollywood dream, Juliana Redding moved to Southern California, found an apartment in Santa Monica and waited tables while trying to get modeling and acting jobs.
The 21-year-old brown-haired beauty from Tucson worked her way to the outer edges of fame, landing a small role in the 2005 independent film Kathy T Gives Good Hoover and being featured in Maxim magazine’s “Hometown Hotties” contest spread.
But it all tragically and violently ended. Redding’s body was discovered March 16, 2008, by police who were summoned to her apartment when her mother called from Arizona to report she was unable to contact her daughter.
For two years, the case was a Hollywood who-done-it. Santa Monica detectives spent thousands of hours trying to piece together why the aspiring model-actress was killed during an apparent brutal assault.
An Arrest Finally Made
Then last week came a break, with a twist: Police arrested a Camarillo, Calif., woman in the murder. Authorities have not officially said what happened, but there are hints that the murder may have been linked to her father’s business dealings.
According to authorities, the murder suspect – 44-year-old Kelly Soo Park – was paid $250,000 three weeks before the slaying and had another $113,000 wired to her relatives through a South Korean bank a few days before her arrest, The Los Angeles Times reports.
The money, police say, was paid by Park’s employer, Dr. Munir Uwaydah, who was once adjudged by a civil court to have defrauded a medical supply company of nearly $1 million. He and the victim’s father, Greg Redding, were “involved in a business negotiation that fell apart five days before the murder charged in this case,” Santa Monica Det. Karen Thompson wrote in a bail notion.
An attorney for Uwaydah denies to the Times that the doctor had anything to do with the murder and was unaware of the allegations about a payment to Park. Efforts to reach Redding’s father for comment have been unsuccessful.
In addition to Park, who was arrested June 21 after police used DNA evidence to link her to the crime, a law enforcement source tells PEOPLE, authorities also arrested her roommate. He was later released after the district attorney’s office declined to charge him pending further investigation.
Park appeared in court Monday for the first time since being charged with the murder, often crying and turning to face her family. The arraignment was postponed until July 6 and if convicted, she could face 25 years to life in prison.
Police say the case is still an ongoing investigation and more arrests could be made.
“[Juliana] had a spirit of openness and a love of life,” Helen Rau, Redding’s counselor at Salpointe Catholic High School, where she played soccer and was a student council member, told The Arizona Daily Star in 2008. “It spilled over to others.”
News of Redding’s death spread quickly through the Salpointe community, which was “absolutely in shock,” said the school’s development director Kay Sullivan.
“She never really got the chance,” said Santa Monica Police Department spokesman Lt. Alex Padilla, “to live her dreams.”
• Reporting by JOHNNY DODD