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Differing views given of suspect in strangling of Santa Monica model

Prosecutors describe Kelly Soo Park as a fraud artist capable of 'taking care of business.' The defense describes her as a law-abiding mortgage broker and churchgoer who cares for an ailing mother.

September 03, 2010|By Robert Faturechi, Los Angeles Times

Prosecutors have characterized the woman accused of killing an aspiring model in 2008 as a globetrotting fraud artist, flush with cash and capable of "taking care of business."

But recent defense filings paint a very different picture of Kelly Soo Park. They describe the 44-year-old as a law-abiding, local mortgage broker who cared for her ailing mother and regularly attended church services.

Park is accused of strangling Juliana Redding in her Santa Monica condo. Redding, a 21-year-old Arizona native, had moved to Los Angeles to pursue work as a model and actress. DNA extracted from her body matched Park's and phone records place Park outside the building the night before Redding was killed, prosecutors say.

Since Park's June arrest, her attorneys and family have remained tight-lipped, and media attention has focused mainly on Park's employer: a Marina del Rey physician who has been linked to the killing by prosecutors, but has not been charged.

Prosecutors allege that Dr. Munir Uwaydah made six-figure payments to Park and her family before the killing and before Park's arrest. Deputy Dist. Atty. Alan Jackson said Uwaydah bragged that he had a "female James Bond" in Park, and had sent Park to Redding's condo the night of her killing.

According to prosecutors, Redding's father, a pharmacist, and Uwaydah had planned to start a pharmaceutical business together, but the deal had broken down days before the killing. Jackson has suggested in court that Park was directed to the aspiring model's condo by Uwaydah to send a message.

Park has pleaded not guilty. Uwaydah, through his attorneys, has denied any involvement in the case.

The contrasting portrait of Park offered by her attorneys comes as they try to persuade a judge to lift a hold on her bail.

In one filing, Park is described as a successful businesswoman who had "absolutely no criminal history" and had never been accused of impropriety, even in her personal life. She attended Sunday services for the last two decades, the filing states, and regularly made contributions to her Episcopalian church in Pasadena.

In a separate filing, her mother, Irene, says Park cared for her through five major surgeries. The ailing 70-year-old said the two lived together in a Thousand Oaks home paid for by Park.

Park's attorneys contend that payments from Uwaydah to Park and her relatives have been mischaracterized. For example, they said the $113,400 payment days before her arrest was a loan repayment to Park's father.

Prosecutors sought a hold on Park's bail amid concerns that funds from alleged illegal activities, such as her alleged medical fraud, might have been used to free her from custody. Her attorney, Kay Rackauckas, said Park has been forced to turn to people outside her inner circle of relatives and business associates for help. A recent filing shows family friends — including a former university professor and a financial manager — willing to put up their own assets to help bail Park out.

robert.faturechi@latimes.com

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