Investigators were searching Friday for three men seen leaving a motel with a former beauty queen the night before police found her body in a muddy field six weeks ago.
Jill Ann Weatherwax, 27, a onetime Miss Hollywood, was found stabbed to death behind an animal shelter March 25.
"It's one of those tragic endings that we often see when someone becomes involved in a spiral of drug use that turns into prostitution, that ultimately ends in murder," Police Lt. Jerry Davis said.
After winning beauty pageants in Michigan, Weatherwax moved to Southern California several years ago with hopes of becoming a star. She was crowned Miss Hollywood and signed a recording contract.
But police say that she took a wrong turn. In the 11 months before her death, Weatherwax was arrested three times in Ventura County for drug possession and being drunk in public, court records show.
She was arrested in Fresno March 21 for investigation of being drunk in public.
Three days later, she was seen in an abandoned house, Davis said. She was last seen alive that night with the three men, who Davis said were seen driving a green or gray four-door Ford Tempo.
"It is a known fact to our investigators that the activity that she was engaged in . . . that night was prostitution," Davis said.
But family members say they find it hard to believe that Weatherwax was involved with drugs or prostitution.
She made her last phone call to her family in Michigan the evening before her death, her father, James Weatherwax said. "They think just because people dropped her in a vacant lot near a street where there's prostitution, she was involved in it," he said. "She was not a prostitute. It's ridiculous."