LOS ANGELES - Friends and family members of a model from Tucson who was strangled erupted in tears and screams Tuesday when a jury acquitted a woman of her murder.
Onlookers in the courtroom who knew victim Juliana Redding, who moved to California from Tucson, screamed obscenities and called defendant Kelly Soo Park a murderer.
They appeared ready to pounce on Park and were held back by deputies as she turned and was led through a rear entrance.
Park, described during the trial as a "female James Bond," wept when the verdict was announced.
District Attorney Jackie Lacey later issued a statement saying prosecutors believed in the strength of the evidence and had fought hard and fair in court.
"Although we disagree with the verdict, we respect our system of justice," Lacey said.
Prosecutors had depicted Park as a hired killer who strangled Redding, 21, with her bare hands on instructions from the model's former boyfriend.
The panel returned two separate verdicts in the case after struggling with legal definitions and receiving additional instructions.
The panel initially found Park not guilty of first-degree murder. After hearing more arguments from lawyers, jurors deliberated further and came back with an acquittal on the lesser offense of second-degree murder.
Park's lawyer, George Buehler, told the panel: "There are still a lot of unanswered questions about what happened in the apartment."
Redding was a 2005 graduate of Salpointe Catholic High School. She moved from Tucson to California to pursue an acting career.
Redding was killed in Santa Monica in 2008. Prosecutors alleged that Park strangled her with her bare hands and left overwhelming DNA evidence at the crime scene.
They say a doctor who had dated Redding gave Park a six-figure payment to kill her after a business deal soured with Redding's father.
During the trial, there was testimony from the father that he heard the boyfriend refer to Park as a female James Bond. He did not elaborate.
Defense attorneys say Park lacked the brutal, evil intent the crime required, and she wasn't there when Redding was killed. "I hope they find who killed her," said defense attorney Mark Kasabian.