A year later, California exotic dancer's slaying yields little answers
This month marks the first anniversary of the slaying of Paula Sladewski, an exotic dancer and aspiring model visiting from California whose burned body was found in a North Miami trash bin.
On Paula Sladewski's birthday, Dec. 15, her family went to the Red Lobster because it was one of her favorite restaurants.
They went around the table and each person told a favorite story about her.
Then they went outside, said a prayer and released a bundle of balloons into the sky.
Sladewski would have turned 27.
About a year earlier, on Jan. 3, 2010, Sladewski's body was found burned inside a North Miami trash bin.
Since then, her family has struggled with their loss, waiting for answers that haven't come.
North Miami police have made no arrests and released no new information about what happened in Sladewski's final hours.
Her former boyfriend is still considered a ``person of interest'' by police because he was among the last to see her. Police spokesman Maj. Neal Cuevas said Sladewski's cause of death is still unknown.
``I keep praying that I get that phone call that they've arrested somebody,'' her mother, Patsy Watkins, said from Garden City, Mich.
Watkins' youngest child wasn't supposed to be in Miami that weekend. The vivacious blond and exotic dancer had planned to ring in the new year in Las Vegas, Watkins said.
But she found an online deal for tickets to Lady Gaga's New Year's Eve concert at the Fontainebleau and changed her mind, making plans to ring in the New Year with boyfriend Kevin Klym in Miami.
First came the holidays in Michigan. Watkins saw her daughter Christmas Day at a family dinner at the home of Kelly Farris, Sladewski's older sister.
``I invited her to my house for New Year's Eve, but my invitation was too late,'' Farris said. ``She already had the tickets.''
Before leaving for South Florida, Sladewski dropped off her two Yorkies, Taz and Bella, at her mom's house. She planned to pick them up when she got back.
Several days into their vacation, on Jan. 3, Sladewski and Klym were at Club Space, 34 NE 11th St., where they got in a fight, according to police.
It wasn't their first. Court records in San Bernardino County, Calif., show that a domestic violence battery charge was filed against Sladewski in June 2009. It was dismissed in December. Her family has said the pair had a contentious relationship, with Klym once giving her a broken nose.
About 7 a.m., Klym was thrown out of Club Space. He told police he took a cab back to the couple's Miami Beach hotel, which North Miami police later said they confirmed.