Trial opens for ‘female James Bond’ in aspiring model’s death

Kelly Soo Park in court at the start of her trial on charges of murder in the death of model Juliana Redding.
(Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

The opening day of the murder trial of a woman accused of strangling aspiring model and actress Juliana Redding focused on a doctor the victim once dated.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Stacy Okun-Wiese said Redding, 21, was killed by Kelly Soo Park, an associate of a doctor Redding once dated.

Redding was killed five days after her father broke off negotiations on a business deal with her ex-boyfriend, Dr. Munir Uwaydah, prosecutors said in opening statements, and Park’s DNA was discovered on the victim’s neck and clothing and in her apartment.


The prosecutor said detectives were able to determine that DNA found on Redding’s neck, her cellphone, a stove knob and blood from a fingerprint in the home all belonged to a female suspect.

Investigators eliminated 42 women as suspects before matching the genetic profile found at the apartment to Park, Okun-Wiese said.

Uwaydah has denied any involvement in Redding’s death. Prosecutors previously said they suspected Uwaydah fled the country when Park, 47, was arrested in 2010. The doctor’s attorney, Benjamin N. Gluck, declined to comment Wednesday.

In an opening statement that lasted just a few minutes, defense attorney George Buehler told jurors that forensic evidence would not conclusively prove that Park was responsible for Redding’s killing. The prosecution, he said, has no evidence to show that his client had any reason to commit such a brutal crime.

“Keep an open mind in this case,” he told the jury.

Park, who wore a white cardigan sweater slung over her shoulders, sat quietly taking notes. She is free on $3.5-million bail.

Prosecutors have previously said that Uwaydah made six-figure payments to Park and her family before the killing and before Park’s arrest. They said he also bragged that he had a “female James Bond” in Park.

Okun-Wiese did not mention the payments during her opening statements, but the doctor otherwise figured prominently in the first day of Park’s trial.

Redding briefly dated Uwaydah a year before her death. During that time the physician offered to go into business with her father, an Arizona-based pharmacist, to produce a pain cream, the prosecutor said.

Redding’s father, Greg Redding, testified Wednesday that he did some research on the doctor and discovered that Uwaydah had lied about his age, was married and had children.

Once he related that information to his daughter she broke off the relationship and he broke off business talks with the doctor. But he said he resumed discussions after talking to Uwaydah and concluding that he might have been wrong about the doctor.

Greg Redding finally ended negotiations in a letter his lawyer sent to Uwaydah’s attorney on March 10, 2008, five days before his daughter was killed.

His daughter failed to appear for a modeling job March 16, 2008, prompting her mother to call authorities.

Juliana Redding was found dead inside her small Centinela Avenue apartment, which smelled strongly of gas. Her stove had been left on and a candle was burning.

“Juliana Redding spent the last moments of her life literally fighting to save herself,” prosecutors told the jury. “Juliana Redding tried to fight off a woman. A woman she did not know .... A woman who needs to be held accountable for her actions.”


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