The case against a woman charged with murdering an aspiring model in Santa Monica took an intriguing turn Friday, when prosecutors alleged that the suspect received hundreds of thousands of dollars from a troubled physician who was in a foundering business deal with the victim's father.
Kelly Soo Park, 44, was paid $250,000 three weeks before the grisly 2008 killing of Juliana Redding and Park's family received another payment of $113,400 in the days before her arrest June 18, prosecutors said in a motion filed Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
FOR THE RECORD:
Model's slaying: An article in Saturday's LATExtra section about the case against a woman accused of killing Juliana Redding said that Dr. Munir Uwaydah, whom prosecutors identified as the suspect's employer, had been convicted in an unrelated fraud case. That case was a civil matter, not a criminal one, and Uwaydah was "adjudged to have committed fraud," according to California Medical Board records. —
The money, they said, came from Park's employer, Dr. Munir Uwaydah, a Marina del Rey doctor with a checkered past. Law enforcement authorities have declined to discuss the financial transactions and what role, if any, they believe Uwaydah played in the killing.
Medical and court records indicate that Uwaydah was convicted in 2005 of defrauding a medical supply company of nearly $1 million and is being investigated for possibly filing millions of dollars in fraudulent insurance claims. Last year, state authorities sought to revoke his medical license for —among other allegations — allowing a physician assistant to begin a surgical procedure while he was not in the room.
Uwaydah's attorney, Henry Fenton, said his client had nothing to do with the murder. Fenton said he was unaware of any of the allegations about the payment to Park or medical fraud. According to the attorney, Uwaydah was traveling outside the country and unreachable.
Redding's March 15, 2008, slaying set off shockwaves in the affluent neighborhood around Santa Monica Boulevard and Centinela Avenue, where rent for one-bedroom apartments can exceed $2,000 a month. The 21-year-old Arizona native moved to Los Angeles to pursue work as an actress and model after she was featured in a popular men's magazine.
Along with modeling jobs, she worked at a Venice tapas bar. Police were dispatched to her condo after her mother called from Tucson to report that her daughter had not been returning phone calls. Redding's body showed signs of physical assault.
On Friday, prosecutors detailed the transfer of funds as part of a request that the judge in the case raise Park's bail to $5 million from $1 million. Judge Keith Schwartz is expected to rule on the increased bail at a hearing Monday morning.
Although authorities have remained tightlipped on how Park was linked to Redding since they arrested the woman in Camarillo, they provided a hint to the connection in the motion for higher bail. Redding's father, Greg Redding, was "involved in a business negotiation with Dr. Uwaydah that fell apart … five days before the murder charged in this case," Santa Monica Det. Karen Thompson, the investigating officer in the case, wrote in the bail motion.
Thompson said Park was suspected of being involved in "medical fraud." In previous court filings, prosecutors reiterated Park's involvement in "ongoing, complex, multi-layer medical fraud" and said they were aware that the Berkshire Hathaway Insurance Co. was withholding "several million dollars in payment on medical claims" submitted from Uwaydah's medical practice.
Santa Monica police referred inquiries from The Times to the district attorney's office, saying only that they were continuing to investigate the case and were possibly tracking other suspects. The lead prosecutor in the case and Gregory Redding did not return calls seeking comment.
As Uwaydah's employee, Park had received a monthly salary of $10,000 at least since 2008 in addition to the two lump-sum payments the doctor allegedly made, according to Thompson. The investigator added that records from Uwaydah's office showed he made a third payment of an unknown amount to a South Korean bank account in Park's name days before she was arrested.
Park's roommate, Ronnie Wayne Case, also was arrested by Santa Monica detectives, but the district attorney's office declined to charge the 34-year-old, pending further investigation.