Anneka Vasta

Anneka Vasta

SAN DIEGO -- The Navy Criminal Investigative Service was asking for the public's help Sunday in determining how a former Penthouse model turned up drowned on a restricted piece of Camp Pendleton beach with a broken neck and back.

Anneka Vasta, known as Anneka Di Lorenzo in the 1970s, was the 1975 Penthouse Pet of the Year and appeared in the 1979 movie "Caligula," which was co-produced by the late Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione, whom she dated -- and successfully sued, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Joggers found her body Jan. 4, washed up on the beach where Marines train.

Vasta, who was 58 and had raised a daughter, had been working as a nursing assistant in Los Angeles. Her maroon 2001 Mazda 626 was found along a bluff on Interstate 5, but it was unclear how she died.

An autopsy showed she drowned, but her family and NCIS investigators are now asking for public's help in closing the case. Investigators do not know if she committed suicide or may have met with foul play around New Year's Eve.

"The main unanswered question that we have is how she got from her vehicle to the water," NCIS Special Agent Rachel McGranaghan told the Union- Tribune. "We know her life ended in the water, in some circumstance, we just don't know how."

Had she jumped off the roughly 60-foot sea cliff, investigators don't believe her body would have ended up in the water.

Anyone who saw the youthful-looking blonde in the area on Jan. 2, or her car, was asked call the NCIS office at (760) 725-5150. Cellphone tips can be texted to 274637.

Born Marjorie Thoreson, the Minnesota native left home at age 14 for Los Angeles. After establishing herself, she eventually sued Guccione for sexual harassment and was awarded more than $4 million in 1990 by a New York judge.

Guccione died of throat cancer last year.

At the time of her death, Vasta was divorced and in and out of jobs. She was living near her sister Susan Thoreson in Sherman Oaks. Thoreson told The Union-Tribune said her sister began showing signs of degrading mental health as long as eight years ago. She apparently took a Lithium-based drug for a mood disorder and Xanax for anxiety.

"When Anneka got paranoid, she would run away," Thoreson said. "It was that fear or flight stuff."

NCIS investigators determined Vasta left Los Angeles Jan. 2 in the wee hours. Just before 6 a.m., she got a room at the Motel 6 on Raintree Drive, near South Carlsbad State Beach.

She never checked out, and there's no evidence she ever used the room, The Union-Tribune reported. Vasta's cellphone records show she drove around until about 8:30 a.m., making calls to family and friends. The last call was placed from the vicinity of the I-5 vista parking area.

When investigators discovered the car, her phone and purse were still in it. So was a woman's leopard-print blouse and a sports bra, stained with blood and wrapped in a plastic bag. A bloody steak knife was on the passenger floorboard. The blood was matched to Vasta.

An autopsy showed shallow cuts on Vasta's wrists and two stab wounds to her chest, none of which would have caused her death. And her neck and back were broken before she died. Investigators said there was no sign of sexual assault.