Ten years ago today, the body of aspiring model Paula Sladewski was found burned beyond recognition inside a flaming dumpster in an industrial area of North Miami. Only her dental records could identify her.
A New Year's Eve Lady Gaga concert brought Sladewski and her boyfriend Kevin Klym to Miami Beach. The Michigan couple celebrated 2010 by dancing to Mother Monster at the Fontainebleau and spent the rest of the weekend clubbing. They went to Space in the early hours of January 3, 2010, a Sunday. Klym reportedly got kicked out of the club after arguing with Sladewski. He took a cab back to their hotel in Miami Beach, and she stayed behind.
Grainy camera footage shows Sladewski leaving the club around 7:20 a.m. Some reports say she left with an unknown man, while others say a man followed her out of the club or approached her outside. North Miami police say no other cameras captured where she went.
Her body was found later that day, and police still don't know who killed her.
"There was an eight- or ten-hour gap where we just don't know where she was," North Miami Police Sgt. Michael Gaudio says.
Sladewski's sister, Kelly Farris, said in previous interviews her sister was "full of life." Modeling was her dream, and she appeared in the 2003 video Playboy: The Ultimate Playmate Search.
Klym, one of the last people to see her alive, was initially a suspect. Sladewski reportedly told a friend she was afraid of Klym, and her stepfather told media outlets she and Klym had a "horrible relationship." Police ultimately cleared him, and when they released a sketch of a possible suspect, Klym went on the Today show to say the sketch looked like a bouncer from the club.
But Space issued a statement at the time saying the person seen following Sladewski on video wasn't an employee at the club. The club's owner said three employees saw the man walk up to Sladewski on the street in front of the club, talk to her, and walk away with her.
Police questioned Klym, club employees, witnesses, and the person who reported the fire. Everyone was cleared. Gaudio says Sladewski didn't have a cell phone they could track; Klym reportedly kept her phone when he left the club. There were no cameras to show where she went beyond the club exit. She was from out of town and had no local connections. No one knew where she went or what she did between the time she left the club and the time her body was found.
"Maybe she kept partying with other people," Gaudio says. "When you come out of Club Space, there's a row of taxis that circle the club. She could've jumped in a cab, gotten a ride from someone. She could have gone anywhere and done anything."
Gaudio couldn't get specific but says investigators think whoever killed Sladewski must have known the area where her body was left.
"It was out of the way. It wasn't highly traveled by people," Gaudio says. "It was a Sunday. A dead end. It's a place you wouldn't know unless you lived or worked there."
Police say anyone who comes forward with credible information, physical evidence, or video footage could still help solve the decade-old case.
"We're just hoping for that one break, that one person who'll say something that shakes everything loose," Gaudio says. "I'd like to see this one solved."
Anyone with information is asked to call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-8477 or the North Miami Police Department at 305-891-0924.
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