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Woman’s Body Is Found

Times Staff Writers

The body of a Santa Monica woman who had been missing for two weeks was discovered Monday at the bottom of a deep ravine in the Hollywood Hills, her hands bound and her body partially obscured by a blanket or sleeping bag, authorities said.

Police have focused their investigation on a “subject of interest,” who already is in custody on an unrelated charge. Detectives said the man, whose identity has not been released, fits the likeness of a composite drawing created shortly after Kristine Louise Johnson was reported missing by her roommate on Feb. 15.

“Now our investigation is a confirmed one of kidnap and murder,” said Santa Monica Police Chief James T. Butts Jr. “We believe the case will unfold rather rapidly.”

Law enforcement sources said the suspect apparently had tried several times to lure women with promises of movie auditions and photo shoots. He was being held on an unrelated felony charge at the Los Angeles County Jail and has been in custody for a week and a half, officials said.

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Johnson, a blond, blue-eyed, 21-year-old Santa Monica College student with dreams of Hollywood stardom, was last seen by her roommate, who said Johnson had planned to meet a photographer to audition for a possible feature film appearance.

Distraught family members and scores of volunteers had searched the thick chaparral of the Hollywood Hills and Topanga Canyon over the weekend, but failed to turn up any sign of the woman.

Johnson’s body was discovered in thick brush Monday afternoon by two hikers. She was partially clad in stockings and underwear and had bindings on her hands, according to police. Her body was partially wrapped in a sleeping bag or blanket, and appeared to have been there “for quite some time,” police said.

The body, which was found about 100 feet below a dirt access road near the 8500 block of Skyline Drive, was identified by a large tattoo on the woman’s back, detectives said.

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Police have yet to determine a cause of death.

“We don’t know where she was killed; she may have been thrown here,” Butts said.

Johnson had described the man she planned to meet in Beverly Hills as a photographer and said she had run into him at the Century City Shopping Center.

Last week, police released a composite sketch of that man. The drawing depicted a cleanshaven white male in his 30s, about 6 feet tall with a thin to medium build and dark hair.

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The sketch was created with the help of another woman, who told police that she was approached at the same mall by a man who asked to photograph her for a film production. That woman said she met the man in West Hollywood, but had her boyfriend follow her. When the man aggressively urged her to get into his car, the boyfriend chased the man away, she told police.

Last week, authorities searched 10 locations for Johnson’s body, but found nothing until Monday.

Much of the evidence leading to those searches was uncovered in Johnson’s car, a white 1996 Mazda Miata, which was found at the St. Regis Hotel in Century City.

The valet on duty on Feb. 16, the day the Mazda was abandoned, had told the driver he couldn’t park there because it was “valet only,” Butts said.

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“The subject stated, ‘Here’s the key,’ and tossed the keys” to the valet, Butts said. The driver, who had no passenger, bore a strong resemblance to a sketch of the suspect, the valet told police

In addition to attending classes at Santa Monica College, Johnson worked as a data entry operator for Cellular Communications Network Group in Marina del Rey. Johnson dreamed of being part of Hollywood, friends said.

Johnson’s father, Kirk, reached at his Holland, Mich., home, was too distraught to speak to reporters Monday. The dead woman’s mother, Terry Wark, could not be reached for comment Monday.

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Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.


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