Linda Sobek, a former NFL cheerleader turned actress and model on the rise, had been missing for eight days when authorities were at last led to her body by the photographer who had murdered her.
The buried remains of Sobek, 27, were discovered in November 1995 in the twisting trails and plunging canyons of the Angeles National Forest, 25 miles north of Los Angeles.
Charles Rathbun, then 38, was the one who directed investigators to Sobek’s shallow grave, having claimed that he had accidentally struck and killed her with a car during a photo shoot for an automobile magazine.
But an autopsy found otherwise and Rathbun, who had been initially linked to Sobek by a car loan receipt, was charged in her slaying.
A little more than a year after Sobek went missing, justice was served with a first-degree murder conviction for Rathbun — after his account of her brutal killing changed yet again and as details emerged of her final moments alive.
The case, with Sobek, “the quintessential California girl and a blonde bombshell,” at its center, is featured on Monday night’s episode of People Magazine Investigates: Crimes of Fashion, airing on Investigation Discovery and exclusively previewed above.
“She was on the cusp of the big time when she suddenly disappeared,” says PEOPLE Senior Editor Alicia Dennis in the episode clip.
A modeling industry source who spoke to PEOPLE for a 1995 cover story agreed, saying then, “I was amazed at what a hard worker she was.”
But Sobek’s sinister vanishing, after she said she was heading out for a daytime photo shoot, cut all of her opportunities short.
In the days between her disappearance and confirmation of her death, her family was left in limbo, hoping for the best but grappling with the worst.
As one friend recalled to PEOPLE in ’95: “Linda would never let her mother worry, no matter where she is. [Her mom] Elaine knew something was wrong.”
People Magazine Investigates: Crimes of Fashion airs Monday (9 p.m. ET) on Investigation Discovery.