(LOS ANGELES) — Jury selection is set to begin Monday in the trial of Kelly Soo Park, who prosecutors allege strangled an actress and model with her bare hands.
Park, 47, was described in court documents last year as being an enforcer hired by a wealthy doctor to strong-arm anyone who crossed him.
She has been free on $3.5 million bail, awaiting trial for the 2008 murder of Juliana Redding, 21, whom prosecutors say Park killed when the doctor sent her to “intimidate” the young woman.
Redding moved from Arizona to Santa Monica, Calif., to work as an actress and model, but two years after she began her career, Redding was found beaten and strangled in her apartment.
Prosecutors allege Park worked for Dr. Munir Uwaydah as his real estate broker and financial assistant, but was also paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to act as Uwaydah’s “debt collector.” The doctor referred to Park as “James Bond,” according to court documents.
Uwaydah and Redding’s father, Greg Redding, had reportedly planned to go into business together. Redding backed out of the deal on March 10, 2008, according to prosecutors, after he was reportedly concerned Uwaydah’s business was not operating legally.
Park was “dispatched” by Uwaydah to “confront and intimidate” Juliana Redding on March 15, 2008, according to court documents, the date police said Redding was murdered.
Investigators said Park was linked to the crime by DNA evidence, but defense attorneys have argued the real killer was Redding’s boyfriend, John Gilmore.
Gilmore was cleared as a suspect after his girlfriend’s murder and had insisted he had several alibis.
“They’re trying to point the finger at Gilmore, saying he had, at one time, allegedly assaulted his ex-girlfriend,” ABC News legal analyst Dana Cole said.
Court documents last year said Uwaydah fled the U.S. shortly after Park was arrested in 2010 and has since been living in Lebanon.
Uwaydah has not been charged with a crime. A court motion filed last year specifies that prosecutors are “not seeking to prove that [Park] murdered Ms. Redding at the direction of Dr. Uwaydah,” only that he instructed Park to intimidate and threaten the young actress.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Ray Sanchez, CNN
Kathryn Vasel, CNN