The monthlong search for Adea Shabani, a model and aspiring actress, came to an apparent close Tuesday when a body believed to be hers was found in a shallow grave 50 miles north of Sacramento.
Friends and family held a candlelight vigil for the model Tuesday night outside her house in Hollywood. An autopsy is expected to be performed Wednesday.
More than 100 attended the memorial, including family members who traveled from Eastern Europe when she went missing.
“She was so open and so kind,” one mourner said at the vigil, according to KTLA. “She opened her heart to just anyone who needed help.”
“She always reached for the stars, and if it was up to her she’d get it,” another friend told KNBC.
Here is what we know about the case:
When did Shabani go missing?
Shabani, 25, was last seen alive on the afternoon of Feb. 23, when she and Christopher Spotz, a 33-year-old man who police say had an “intimate relationship” with her, left her Wilcox Avenue apartment together, said William Hayes, captain of the Los Angeles Police Department’s elite Robbery-Homicide Division. Friends reported her missing two days later, launching the LAPD’s investigation.
A grainy photo, taken from an elevator’s security camera, is the last image investigators have of Shabani. It shows her and Spotz each wearing baseball caps as they left her apartment. She had two bags with her, police said – a sign she was going on a trip.
But when her friends and family didn’t hear from her, they grew worried and called police.
What happened to Spotz?
Later that week, Spotz made a statement through an attorney saying he and Shabani were driving to Northern California together when they argued near Santa Clarita, Hayes said. Spotz said he pulled off the freeway and let Shabani out of the car — and hadn’t seen her since.
But the story didn’t add up, Hayes said. Investigators weren’t able to verify Spotz’s account, he said, prompting Robbery-Homicide detectives to take over the case.
On March 1, detectives went to Northern California, where Spotz’s father lives, to try and glean more information about where Spotz and Shabani might be. That same day, Hayes said, Spotz and another woman — his fiancée — drove to his family’s home in Colorado.
About a week later, detectives went to Colorado to try and talk to Spotz and look at his Toyota Tacoma — the last vehicle in which Shabani was seen alive, Hayes said. Meanwhile, detectives and sheriff’s volunteers fanned out across the Lake of the Woods wildlife area in Northern California, looking for any sign of Shabani.
When police couldn’t find Spotz or his truck, Hayes said, they alerted other law enforcement agencies that they were looking for the vehicle.
San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies spotted it Thursday, near the 10 and 15 freeways. Spotz fled, prompting a chase that stretched from Hesperia to Corona, where authorities say Spotz fatally shot himself along the 91 Freeway.
How was the body found?
The LAPD sent a dive team back to the wildlife area to look for Shabani, Hayes said. Investigators also gleaned more information leading them to the Spenceville Wildlife Area in Nevada County.
On Monday, police combing the banks of a creek found the shallow grave.
Because of the condition of the remains, investigators have not yet determined exactly the time and manner of death, and are still waiting to confirm that the body is indeed Shabani’s.
Hayes called the case a “rather complex investigation.”
“Something happened and I believe it to be somewhat untoward,” he said at a downtown Los Angeles news conference. “But until I get more specifics out of the coroner’s exam … I can’t be definitive as to the cause and manner of death.”
Police are also trying to determine whether anyone else might be involved in Shabani’s disappearance or death, he added.
Who is Shabani?
She graduated from high school in Skopje, Macedonia, and attended college in Paris, according to her Facebook profile. She was a student at the Stella Adler Academy of Acting in Hollywood and was set to graduate in September, said Jayden Brant, a private investigator hired by her family.