A woman accused of killing a 21-year-old Santa Monica model who moved from Arizona to pursue her career in Southern California was acquitted Tuesday on first- and second-degree murder charges in the 2008 slaying.
Kelly Soo Park was found not guilty by a six-man, six-woman jury in the death of Juliana Redding (pictured below), who was killed in her Santa Monica apartment in the 1500 block of Centinela Avenue in Santa Monica. Park was not arrested until 2010, two years after Redding's death.
Park gasped and cried in the downtown Los Angeles courtroom as the verdict on the second-degree murder charge was read within an hour after the reading of the first-degree murder verdict.
When court was dismissed, a group seated in the gallery started yelling at Park, screaming “murderer” and “she knows she did it.”
Local news from across Southern California
“Something wrong here,” one woman said.
Sounds of sobbing from women off-camera could be heard, and separate voices called the verdict “unbelievable.”
The trial, which began in mid-May, included graphic descriptions of the crime scene at Redding's apartment. Prosecutors alleged that is where Redding was strangled before the attacker turned on a gas stove and lit candles in an effort to blow up the unit.
DNA evidence described as "overwhelming" by prosecutors linked Park to the crime scene, according to grand jury transcripts.
"We believed in our case and the strength of our evidence," Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a statement. "We fought hard and fair in the court of law to obtain justice. Although we disagree with the verdict, we respect our system of justice."
Defense attorneys told jurors there is "a whole lot of uncertainty about what happened" in the apartment, even if prosecutors proved Park was present. They argued the DNA evidence could have been transferred to the apartment.
"You have very little evidence about what actually happened," defense attorney George Buehler told jurors. "The prosecution relies heavily on the DNA evidence to place her in the apartment, to place her hands on her neck.
"But you know that that DNA evidence leaves a lot of questions unanswered."
Redding moved to Southern California from Arizona to pursue a modeling career. She was featured in an issue of Maxim magazine and had a small role a 2005 film.
Prosecutors claimed Redding was killed in response to a failed business deal involving her father.
Park was in a business relationship with a company belonging to Dr. Munir Uwaydah, who had been romantically linked to Redding, according to prosecutors. Uwaydah also had been involved in business negotiations with Redding's father.
Redding died just days after her father pulled out of a business deal with Uwaydah, prosecutors said. During an 18-month period, Park or her company received $1 million from Uwaydah's company, according to prosecutors.
Uwaydah is believed to be living outside of the United States. He had not been charged in connection with Redding's death.
More Southern California Stories: