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Model’s death still a mystery

Times Staff Writers

She was always on the run with school, modeling jobs and hostess work at a Venice tapas bar. But no matter how busy, Juliana Redding always made time for her beloved Yorkshire terrier, GiGi.

The aspiring actress and model would join her friend Sherri Hoffman -- and their dogs -- for a traditional doggy playtime dubbed “yappy hour.”

So when Hoffman heard that a model named Juliana was dead, she rushed over to her friend’s Santa Monica apartment. Her heart sank when she saw yellow crime scene tape.

“She’s one of the most beautiful people inside and out,” Hoffman said, eyes welling with tears. “This is really terrible.”

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Police were dispatched to Redding’s apartment in the 1500 block of Centinela Avenue on Sunday evening after her mother had called from Tucson to tell them she had been unable to reach her daughter by phone.

Santa Monica Police spokesman Lt. Alex Padilla said authorities found Redding, 21, dead inside the apartment and that it appeared “she had been physically assaulted.” There were no obvious signs of forced entry, Padilla said, and police have not identified a suspect. They are investigating the death as a homicide, he said, the city’s first this year.

One neighbor said Tuesday that she had heard a loud noise coming from the general direction of Redding’s apartment followed by someone running past her back door.

The results of an autopsy performed Tuesday will “be released at a later date” at the request of Santa Monica police, said Los Angeles County coroner’s Assistant Chief Ed Winter.

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He would not specify Redding’s injuries or cause of death, but added, “The preliminary investigation has revealed no bullet or stab wounds.”

Since November 2006, Redding had lived in the $1,800-a-month, one-bedroom apartment that lies along a busy stretch of Centinela Boulevard zoned for multiunit residences. Her death stunned neighbors and fellow dog walkers there, who described Redding’s personality as bubbly.

“She was very friendly, and the dog was friendly,” said Tom Baxter, 59, a neighbor who often ran into Redding while walking his dogs. “Usually you can tell how a dog was treated by how friendly it is. She was a very lovely, young girl and the dog was as lovely as she was.”

Neighbors in Redding’s building said she was quiet and seldom had guests.

“She was living in kind of solitude, quiet but happy. No loud music. Nothing,” said John Dye, 51, a math professor at Cal State Northridge.

Dye said neighbors knew she was an aspiring model and actress and had played a bit part in the 2005 film “Kathy T Gives Good Hoover.”

With tears in their eyes, friends from the Venice wine bistro where she had worked part time for about a year brought flowers to her apartment building Tuesday, placing them by a nearby palm tree.

The staff of 50 was told of her death about 4 p.m. Monday, a few hours before Redding was to begin her shift. The news hit employees particularly hard.

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“We closed last night,” said Mary Vernieu, the restaurant’s co-owner. “Nobody could even function.”

Jimmy Bradley, the bistro’s manager who hired her, said, “She was a model because she was absolutely gorgeous and could make money off it.” Still, she tried to pick up extra $10-an-hour shifts at the restaurant. “She was cool, just a cool girl,” he said.

The last time she was at the restaurant was Friday night. She came in with a friend for a drink and then left.

“She was sweet. She had no idea how beautiful she was. She was so pretty, and she didn’t care,” Vernieu said. “She was rare . . . and we’re really going to miss her.”

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tami.abdollah@latimes.com

andrew.blankstein@latimes.com


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