Does a notebook contain clues to the disappearance of a Los Angeles model?
The witness was chased off by a group of men
Just outside Los Angeles, nearly seven hundred thousand acres of wilderness covers the sprawling Angeles National Forest. On February 29, 1992, a dedicated off-road enthusiast, who we’ll call Jeff, was exploring a campground area in the Angeles National Forest when his curiosity led him into a mystery. Jeff drove into a campsite and saw an attractive blonde woman sitting on the ground close to a fire:
“I’d noticed this one little road off to the side and I saw that somebody had set up a camp there. As I pulled up, directly in front of me there was an old panel van. To the left of that was a tent. To the left of the tent there was a very attractive girl sitting by herself. Her hair was done up; it was curly and long. She appeared to have make-up on. She was looking down and she very slowly raised her head and we had eye contact.”
Suddenly, Jeff was ambushed by three men who began pounding on his car, demanding to know what he wanted. Jeff immediately left, assuming that the men were just being protective of their camp:
“I never thought about calling the police, nor did I think that these guys were really dangerous to anybody. I thought they were being protective of their camp.”
David was convicted of Kim’s murder
A year later, on March 3, 1993, the Los Angeles County Coroner was called to investigate a possible murder site in the Angeles Forest. A partial set of skeletal remains were found only fifty yards from the spot where Jeff had seen the young blonde woman. When the coroner checked dental records of missing people in the Los Angeles area, he found a match. The remains were identified as those of 20-year-old Kimberly Pandelios, who had disappeared a year before. When she disappeared, Kimberly was living in Southern California. She was taking business classes and worked part-time as a model.
According to her mother, Magaly Spector, it was a tragic end to a promising young life:
“She was loved by everybody in the family. And she was so sweet, so kind. The very end of her life, I don’t want to even think about it.”
After the remains were identified, Kimberly’s story made headlines on the local news. By coincidence, Jeff, the off-road enthusiast was watching:
“The TV was on and I said, ‘that’s the girl. That’s the girl I saw sitting there.’ In my mind there was no doubt that the girl on TV was the same I saw in the camp…”
Jeff immediately contacted the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and accompanied two deputies to the spot where he had seen the woman. But far too much time had passed. There was not a single clue to the strange disappearance and death of Kimberly Pandelios. The coroner could not determine what caused Kimberly’s death. Police only knew that she was no longer a missing person. Her case was now re-classified as a probable homicide. Sergeant John Laurie of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department learned that the day before Jeff saw Kimberly in the makeshift camp, a burned-out car was found near a campground in the Angeles Forest:
“The fire was started in the passenger compartment on the passenger side of the front seat. We were able to determine that the front seat was pulled forward in a position that would be as if she drove to that location.”
Investigators found the charred remains of a spiral notebook in the car. It belonged to Kimberly Pandelios. After running a DMV check on the plates, the police were able to contact Kimberly’s husband, who had already reported his wife missing. A few weeks later, two hikers found a second notebook under a nearby bridge. It was Kimberly’s “dayrunner”. However, the dayrunner yielded no additional clues. Apparently, a third notebook is still unaccounted for. The day after Kimberly was reported missing, her son’s babysitter told Sergeant Laurie that a man named Paul had telephoned for Kimberly the day she disappeared:
“The notebook that Paul has is probably the most valuable notebook. That might have her appointments or contacts for later that day. There’s a possibility that Kimberly went up into the mountains to meet someone and that appointment might be in her book.”
Kimberly told her husband that she was scheduled to do an outdoor photo shoot. According to Sergeant Laurie, she had responded to an ad in a local newspaper:
“A theory is that she drove to that location by herself and met someone to do an outdoor shoot. And that once she was there, she was taken off the road, back into the area that she was ultimately found.”
Authorities believe Kimberly was abducted sometime on Thursday afternoon. When Jeff drove up, it was just past noon on Saturday:
“In retrospect, she might have been drugged, but you just had no idea. If she would’ve cried out, if she would’ve said something. If she would’ve given me an indication she was in trouble, of course I would’ve done something. But I didn’t know. It just gets to me that I didn’t do something right then and there to help her. This person basically died because of my inaction or my ignorance. You can’t bring the girl back, but I would like justice to be done.”
In the case of Kimberly Pandelios, justice has finally been served. Twelve years after Kimberly’s disappearance, a convicted sex offender, David Rademaker, was arrested for her murder. Authorities tied Rademaker to Kimberly using phone records and were able to make the arrest, thanks to the testimony of a teenage girl he had been harassing. A judge sentenced Rademaker to life in prison without the possibility of parole.