The killing of an aspiring 21-year-old model and actress found strangled in her Santa Monica apartment was connected to a business negotiation that her father ended with a Marina del Rey doctor just days before her death, a prosecutor told jurors Wednesday.
Detectives investigating the 2008 slaying of Juliana Redding found DNA and fingerprint evidence at her apartment that matched Kelly Soo Park, an associate of the physician, the prosecutor said during opening statements at Park’s murder trial.
Redding’s mother sobbed in the audience of the downtown courtroom as Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Stacy Okun-Wiese showed jurors photographs of Redding’s body taken after her death.
“Juliana Redding spent the last moments of her life literally fighting to save herself,” Okun-Wiese 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.”
The physician, Dr. Munir Uwaydah, has not been charged in Redding’s death and has denied any involvement. Authorities have said they suspect Uwaydah fled the country when Park, 47, was arrested in 2010.
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 want Redding dead.
“Keep an open mind in this case,” he told the jury.
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 featured prominently in the first day of Park’s trial.
Redding had 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, did some research on the doctor and discovered that Uwaydah had lied about his age, was married and had children, Okun-Wiese said. Redding broke off the relationship. Her father also broke off business talks with the doctor but later resumed discussions with his daughter’s approval, the prosecutor said.
Greg Redding finally ended negotiations in a letter his lawyer sent Uwaydah’s attorney on March 10, 2008, five days before his daughter was killed, Okun-Wiese said.
Redding failed to appear for a modeling engagement on March 16, 2008, prompting her worried mother to call authorities.
Police and firefighters found her dead inside her small Centinela Avenue apartment. Her gas stove had been left on and a candle was burning, the prosecutor told the jury.
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.