"Most people see the role of enforcer as a shady guy in a black trench coat, but she walks in and catches people by surprise."
It was the 16th of March 2008. A Sunday. Twenty one year old Juliana Redding lived alone in a bungalow in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, United States. Juliana left her home in Arizona to move to LA in 2005. She wanted to be famous and hoped to get work as an actor and model. She got small jobs here and there but mostly spent her time at the Santa Monica College as a full time student and working as a hostess in a restaurant.
That day, the 16th of March, Juliana’s mother tried to contact her a number of times but Juliana did not answer or return any of the calls. She lived in Tucson, Arizona and was worried about her daughter so by 6pm that evening, she felt she had no option but to ask police to go to Juliana's bungalow to do a welfare check.
Police went to Juliana's bungalow. There was no sign of forced entry and there was a security door in front of the main door. When they entered, they saw a candle lit in the main entrance and smelled natural gas odor. The gas stove had been left on.
Police found Juliana in the back bedroom. She had been strangled to death. It was clear from the scene that there had been a violent struggle. Due to the violent nature of the attack, police managed to obtain a lot of DNA samples. They obtained DNA from the door lock, a plate in the sink, Juliana's t-shirt, the stove and Juliana's throat.
DNA was obtained from underneath Juliana's fingernails but it belonged to Juliana. Police believed that she tried to loosen the grip of the hands that were around her neck to try to save herself from being strangled and as a result scratched her own neck which left her own DNA underneath her fingernails.
Police spoke to the neighbors. They heard screams and the sound of furniture being moved at 9.53pm on the Saturday night. Police discovered from Juliana's own phone that she had dialed 911 but the call was aborted.
When police spoke to Juliana's friends and family, her father, Greg Redding, told police that they should speak to John Gilmore. He told them that his daughter dated John on and off for the last two years and he was not happy about the relationship as John had a violent past. He told the police that he kicked in the door of Juliana's car before and broke into her home.
Police spoke to John. He went to Juliana's bungalow on the Sunday morning but he did not go inside. He told police he saw the candle through the security door.
John admitted that he and Juliana fought often. He even told them that they fought on the Saturday night. John told Juliana he wanted to meet friends that night and she hung up on him. He said that Juliana went out with one of her friends and he went to a house party a few miles away. They were in touch via text throughout the night until 10pm. Juliana stopped replying to his text messages.
He sent her text messages and called her several times on the Sunday but did not hear from her.
Police were able to clear John almost immediately. They obtained surveillance footage of him on the Saturday night from a convenience store and a Jack In the Box and at a third location. Several people confirmed he was at a house party between 9.45pm and 10.15pm.
Furthermore, police discovered that the DNA found at Juliana's bungalow belonged to a woman.
Police spoke to a number of women who knew Juliana. Was someone jealous of her? She had striking good looks and was well liked but despite testing a number of females who knew her, there was no match.
During the course of their investigation, police discovered there was another man in Juliana's life. Dr. Munir Uwaydah. He was older than Juliana and was a wealthy surgeon.
Dr. Munir Uwaydah
Munir met Juliana when she worked as a hostess at a restaurant in 2007. He offered her a job as his assistant. She accepted. The relationship changed from a working one to a more personal one and Juliana even lived with him for a period. He lavished her with gifts. She drove a white Range Rover and she moved into a stunning Beverly Hills house that he owned.
Munir liked to live the good life. He had holiday homes, flashy cars, expensive watches and stunning women on his arm. He seemed obsessed with Juliana, so much so that he even discussed marriage with her. He wanted to buy her a Lamborghini for her 21st Birthday but it all became too much for Juliana and she ended the relationship. She moved into the Santa Monica bungalow paid for by her father.
Despite the fact their relationship ended, Juliana stayed in touch with Munir and she went to Las Vegas with him and her friends for her Birthday. Munir offered Juliana's father a job. Greg began looking into Munir's background and discovered that he was married with three children in Lebanon. Greg told Juliana and she told Munir that she did not want to hear from him ever again.
Greg and Munir remained in touch and continued to negotiate a business deal but that deal fell through in March 2008. Just one week after that, Juliana was murdered and police wondered whether the two were connected.
Munir was out of the country at the time of Juliana's murder and the DNA found at the crime scene belonged to a woman. But they still believed that he was connected in some way so they looked at the women who worked for him. One such employee was Kelly Soo Park. She was a forty seven year old licensed real estate broker and worked with Munir on a number of business deals. Police discovered that from June 2008 , over an eighteen month period, Kelly received over one million dollars from Munir.
Kelly Soo Park
Police followed Kelly and picked up one of her cigarette butts and the DNA from it matched the DNA that was found at the crime scene. She was arrested and charged with murder.Two days after she was arrested, Dr. Munir Uwaydah vanished. He was believed to be over 7,000 miles away in Beirut. Another man, Ronnie Wayne Case, was arrested in 2010 and also charged with murder with special circumstances and conspiracy. He was later released without any charges in the murder.
It was the Prosecution's case that Kelly and Juliana did not know each other. The only thing that connected them was Dr.Munir Uwaydah.
They believed that Kelly was hired by Munir as an enforcer and as an intimidator. She was almost 6-foot-tall and was very sure of herself. They believed that she was sent to Juliana's house by Munir to frighten Juliana so that she would make her father go through with the business deal.
But the Jury never heard that aspect of the case. The Judge ruled that they could not hear that part. So the Prosecution relied on the DNA evidence found. They told the Jury that Kelly's DNA was found on Juliana’s t-shirt, on the front door in the locks, on Juliana’s telephone and on Juliana's throat. A drop of blood was found in a fingerprint on a plate in the sink and the fingerprint was Kelly's left thumb print. It was their case that the DNA proved that Kelly was inside Juliana's bungalow and had her hands around Juliana's neck. They said that Kelly strangled Juliana to death with her bare hands.
It was the Defense's case that Kelly's DNA got into the bungalow a different way. They focused on DNA transfer. They told the Jurors that there is "a whole lot of uncertainty about what happened" in the apartment.
Kelly's lawyer, George Beuhler, told the Jury:
“When I touch an object, if I leave my DNA, then someone else can come along and touch that object and pick up my DNA and they may go to touch another object, leave my DNA and I never touched that object. "
It was their case that Kelly's DNA had been transferred from somewhere else and brought into Juliana's bungalow. They argued that the real killer may have wiped down the bungalow with a rag to get rid of his fingerprints and inadvertently planted Kelly’s DNA by using a towel that Kelly may have used once five months earlier at Munir’s Beverly Hills house. Kelly would have visited Munir's house before in Beverly Hills and Juliana lived there at one point. So it was their case that Kelly's DNA transferred from items she touched at Munir's house.
The Jury deliberated for over a week. They found Kelly not guilty of murder.
After the verdict, Juliana’s parents issued a statement:
“We believe the evidence against the defendant is enormous and that justice has not been served."
Two years and two months after her murder acquittal, Kelly Soo Park was arrested again. Twelve people were arrested in relation to their involvement in Dr. Munir Uwaydah's businesses.
Kelly pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, lying to patients, disfiguring some in botched surgeries, and cheating insurance companies out of $150 million. It was alleged that they tricked 21 people into thinking Dr. Munir Uwaydah would perform their operations. It was further alleged the operations were carried out by a physician’s assistant. Kelly was released on bail of more than $1.5 million. No Trial date has been set.
Dr. Munir Uwaydah’s California medical license has been cancelled.
The fraud charges shine a new light on Juliana's case. Her father was negotiating a deal to run a company named Golden State Pharmaceuticals on behalf of Munir. Just a few days before his daughter's murder, Greg ended the negotiations partly because his lawyers believed that the company was not properly licensed. In a letter written to Munir, they said:
"terms of compensation are certainly lucrative, but they do not warrant any compromise of professional responsibilities."
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