A Los Angeles prosecutor told jurors Wednesday that there was overwhelming DNA and other evidence to show that a mortgage broker assaulted and strangled an aspiring model in Santa Monica.
Genetic testing proved that Kelly Soo Park's DNA was found on the victim's neck and her tank top as well as several areas inside the apartment where the March 2008 killing took place, Deputy Dist. Atty. Stacy Okun-Wiese said during closing arguments.
The prosecutor said Juliana Redding's apartment on Centinela Avenue showed signs of a fierce struggle. Authorities found a broken necklace, jostled furniture and porcelain broken into pieces.
Redding's lifeless body had been dragged into her bedroom and put on her bed, the prosecutor said. The 21-year-old victim was covered in scratches and bruises. She had been strangled so hard that a bone in her neck had been broken.
"As she is taking her last breath of air, she is fighting for her life," Okun-Wiese told jurors. "This girl was brutally, brutally murdered."
The prosecutor noted that Park, 47, was 5-feet-10 and 150 pounds while the victim was 5-feet-7 and 110 pounds.
Okun-Wiese also highlighted Park's reaction when Santa Monica police detectives obtained a court order to take her fingerprints. Park refused to provide the prints, claiming that she did not believe the detective was a police officer, even after a uniformed officer appeared, Okun-Wiese said.
"She knows she’s caught and she doesn’t want to give any evidence to help convict her," the prosecutor said.
When the prints were eventually taken, there was a match for a bloody print left on a plate in Redding's apartment, Okun-Wiese said.
During the lunch hour, Park tearfully embraced supporters in the hallway before closing arguments began.
Okun-Wiese said 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 told.
Redding was killed five days after her father broke off negotiations with the doctor, Okun-Wiese said. She said more than $1 million was transferred to Park or her company from a company owned by Uwaydah, the prosecutor said.
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.
Police and firefighters discovered that the apartment's gas stove had been left on and a candle was burning, the prosecutor told the jury. Okun-Wiese said an explosion could have engulfed the entire apartment complex.
"She tried very hard to cover her tracks," the prosecutor said of Park.
Okun-Wiese told jurors that detectives were able to determine that DNA found on Redding, her cellphone, a stove knob and the inside of the locked front door all belonged to a female suspect.
Investigators eliminated 42 women as suspects before matching the genetic profile found at the apartment to Park, the prosecutor said.