A 31-year-old model who was found dead inside her downtown Los Angeles apartment was severely beaten, bound and gagged, with her body discovered inside her refrigerator, according to an autopsy report released Friday by the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner.
Maleesa Mooney was found dead in her apartment in the 200 block of South Figueroa Street around 3:55 p.m. Sept. 12, police said. Her cause of death was not previously revealed, although police said the case was being investigated as a homicide.
Mooney’s body was found two days after another model, 32-year-old Nichole Coats, was found dead inside a downtown apartment less than three miles away. Police eventually determined the deaths were not related, and the Medical Examiner this week ruled Coats’ death an accident due to “cocaine and ethanol toxicity.”
The autopsy report on Mooney points to evidence of blunt force trauma, including abrasions, lacerations and contusions around her head and neck, body and extremities.
According to the Medical Examiner report, Mooney was last seen alive Sept. 6 on surveillance video at her apartment complex. Police went to her apartment Sept. 12 in response to a call from her mother requesting a welfare check.
Responding officers “found Ms. Mooney’s body wedged inside the refrigerator” with blood on the floor outside of it, according to the autopsy report.
The woman’s wrists and ankles were bound, “and these bindings were tied to each other behind her back with miscellaneous electronic cords and clothing items. Additional clothing items were found around her face and neck. An apparent gag, fashioned out of an article of clothing, was stuffed in her mouth,” according to the report.
The Medical Examiner’s report noted that toxicology testing found evidence of recent cocaine use.
The report noted that the blunt force trauma injuries she suffered “are generally not considered acutely life threatening on their own.”
“However, based on the circumstances of how Ms. Mooney was found, these injuries suggest she was likely involved in (a) violent physical altercation prior to her death,” according to the report.
The report notes that suffocation may have played a role in her death, and the role that alcohol or drugs may have played “is uncertain.”
The report concludes by labeling the death a homicide, caused by “homicidal violence.”
Mooney was the sister of Guyanese pop singer Jourdin Pauline, who posted a tribute to her sibling on Instagram following her death.
“My heart is crushed, I can’t believe you won’t be here with us anymore. You were so loving and so kind to everyone. You made sure if you ate everyone around you was too. You opened your arms to people who didn’t deserve you as a friend. You’re the best thing to happen to almost everyone’s lives you touched!!!”
She added, “The reason I’m me is because of you!!! … My first best friend the one who taught me everything I know!!!!! How is this even possible you won’t be here. … This feels so surreal. I keep waking up crying thinking I’m in a bad dream. We will get justice for you my sister. I promise you won’t be gone in vain!!!”
Mooney’s family indicated in early October that Mooney was two months pregnant when she died. However, the autopsy report makes no mention of pregnancy.
The report notes that while Mooney was last seen alive Sept. 6, surveillance video from the apartment building showed an unidentified male using her key FOB to use the building’s elevator, then carrying plastic bags to her apartment.
Anyone with information on the case was urged to call Dets. Pierce or Marcinek of the LAPD Central Bureau Homicide Division at 213-996-4150, or 877- LAPD-247. Anyone wishing to remain anonymous can call the L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS or go to www.lacrimestoppers.org.
Source: NBC Los Angeles