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Jury selection to begin in trial of California woman accused of strangling aspiring model

AP File / Santa Monica Police Department

Juliana Redding was found dead in her Santa Monica apartment in 2008.

Jury selection is slated to begin Monday in the long-awaited murder trial of Kelly Soo Park, whom Southern California prosecutors allege strangled a young actress and model with her bare hands nearly five years ago.

Park, 47, allegedly worked as “muscle,” or an enforcer, for a wealthy doctor and businessman, officials charge.

Prosecutors say Park stalked and killed Juliana Redding, 21, in her Santa Monica apartment in 2008 after a Dr. Munir Uwaydah dispatched her to "intimidate and threaten" the young woman, according to court documents cited by the Los Angeles Times.

Redding — an aspiring model and actress from Tucson, Arizona who had landed a few bit parts in low-budget independent films — was discovered beaten to death in her upscale Santa Monica apartment on March 17, 2008, according to a statement from the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

Earlier reports said Redding had dialed 911 for help when the assailant apparently grabbed the phone and hung it up.

Prosecutors say Uwaydah had dated the young model, according to the Los Angeles Times, and was reportedly planning to launch a pharmaceutical business with Greg Redding, Juliana’s father. But the prospective partnership fell apart just days before Juliana’s death, according to the Times.

Uwaydah, a spinal surgeon from Marina Del Rey, has since left the country and has not been charged in Redding’s death, but prosecutors allege Park and her boyfriend worked as “debt collectors” for the doctor on at least two other occasions.

Prosecutors say Park and her boyfriend strong-armed one man into making payments on a $350,000 judgment in 2008. And two years later — around the time Redding was found beaten and strangled in her apartment – the duo allegedly intimidated a bank manager who had withdrawn from a business deal with Uwaydah.

NBC News

Kelly Soo Park, 47, is accused of killing an aspiring actress and model in 2008 on orders of a wealthy California doctor and businessman,

According to court documents cited by the Los Angeles Times, Park officially worked as Uwaydah’s real estate broker and financial assistant but was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to also serve as an enforcer for the well-heeled doctor.

Park and her boyfriend were arrested in June 2010, but prosecutors declined to immediately charge him in connection with Redding's murder, according to NBCLosAngeles.

Uwaydah left the United States after Park was arrested and has since lived in Lebanon, according to court documents. He has not been charged with a crime as prosecutors have said they are "not seeking to prove that [Park] murdered Ms. Redding at the direction of Dr. Uwaydah," but, rather, that he directed Park to threaten the Redding.

DNA evidence obtained at the scene of the crime was traced to Park, according to testimony in secret grand jury proceedings, the Times reported.

Park has pleaded not guilty to one count of murder.

Law enforcement officials in Los Angeles claim Kelly Soo Park was hired as a "female James Bond" by a doctor, Munir Uwaydah, to murder the daughter of former business associate. NBC's Kristen Welker reports.