Woman charged with strangling model had no motive, lawyer says

Kelly Soo Park glances at her lawyer George Buehler, left, as they and her other lawyer, Mark Kassabian, right, listen to opening statements last week.
(Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

A businesswoman accused of beating and strangling an aspiring model in Santa Monica five years ago had no motive to carry out the killing, a defense attorney told a downtown Los Angeles jury Wednesday.

Attorney George Buehler said in his closing argument that the prosecution failed during a week of testimony to show that Kelly Soo Park had “the level of brutal, evil intent” to carry out such a crime.

He suggested that police and prosecutors stopped investigating the case when they discovered that DNA left at the apartment where the killing took place matched Park.

“The D.A.'s case rests entirely on DNA evidence,” Buehler told jurors. “Don’t be fooled by the DNA evidence.”

Park, 47, is charged with the May 15, 2008, slaying of Juliana Redding. Redding, 21, was found dead a day later in her Centinela Avenue apartment.


Buehler spoke after Deputy Dist. Atty. Stacy Okun-Wiese told jurors that the DNA evidence against Park was overwhelming.

The prosecutor said Park’s DNA was found on the victim’s neck; a tank top Redding was wearing when she was strangled; a cellphone that was used to make a 911 call that did not go through; the inside of the front door that was locked from the inside; and a stove knob that was left on, filling the apartment with gas.

Okun-Wiese has argued that Park was linked to the victim through her work as a mortgage broker and business associate for a Marina del Rey physician, Dr. Munir Uwaydah, who briefly dated Redding about a year before the killing. During that time, the physician offered to go into business with Redding’s father, an Arizona-based pharmacist, Okun-Wiese said.

Redding was killed five days after her father broke off negotiations with the doctor, Okun-Wiese said. She said that more than $1 million was transferred to Park or her company from a company owned by Uwaydah.

Buehler argued that Park’s DNA could have been transferred from items she touched at Uwaydah’s home, where Park had visited and the victim briefly lived months before moving to the Santa Monica apartment. Redding, Buehler argued, could have taken those items with her when she moved to Santa Monica.

“Is it more far-fetched than the idea that this woman, a successful businesswoman who has no relationship with Juliana Redding, would show up on a Saturday night and commit these heinous acts?” Buehler asked the jury.

Park, who is out of custody on $3.5-million bail, showed little emotion during the afternoon’s closing arguments. Earlier in the day, during the lunch hour, she tearfully embraced supporters in the hallway outside the courtroom.

Uwaydah has not been charged in Redding’s death and has denied any involvement. Authorities have said they suspect Uwaydah fled to Lebanon when Park was arrested in 2010.

Authorities discovered Redding’s body March 16, 2008, after her mother called police, concerned that her daughter had missed a modeling appointment.


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