Friends of Murdered Model, Jasmine Fiore, Tell Her Story

jas fiore

It's a mystery that began in the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas, and ended in a small Canadian motel.

The news spread quickly last weekend that reality TV star Ryan Jenkins, 32, had apparently hanged himself in a motel room in British Columbia.

Days later, the white Mercedes-Benz belonging to Jenkins' wife, model Jasmine Fiore, was discovered. The interior of the car was covered in blood, revealing signs of a gruesome struggle -- or a desperate attempt to hide a crime.

VIDEO: Forensics to Crack Murdered Models Case?
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Now, telling new details of what Hollywood screenwriters like to call the "back story" are emerging.

Watch the full story on "20/20" tonight at 10 p.m. ET

What set two promising young lives on a path toward violent and horrific deaths, hers allegedly at his hands?

They were two lives that, at first glance, appeared to make one golden couple. Their story began in March 2009, in Las Vegas. Jenkins, a Canadian real estate developer, and Fiore met at a casino. They were married days later. It seemed they'd both hit the romantic jackpot.

"Jasmine was ... energy when she walked in the door," said Ken Henderson, chief executive of the talent agency Fiore used.

Henderson said Fiore would make any husband happy. "Every picture that you see with her, with the big smile, that was her," Henderson said. "And you could just feel it, it was real, it wasn't a phony smile, it wasn't the picture-taking smile, it was who she was."

Early Years, Full of Promise

"She was exuberant," said Gwendolyn Beauregard, whose two sons were in school in California with Fiore and who was a mother figure to her. "She was radiant. She was gorgeous. Every man I ever know that ever saw Jasmine, because there was that inner beauty as well as the physical beauty, they fell in love with her at first sight. I mean, she might as well have been Marilyn Monroe reincarnated."

Fiore's mom, Lisa Lepore, remembered her daughter's happy childhood.

"She was just a great kid," Lepore said. "She's a lot of fun, she was smart -- she had an agenda. You know, this is a girl we called Gen. Jasmine when she was 3. The girl woke up, had a plan, had, like, all kind of stuff going on from a little start."

Fiore grew up in Bonny Doon, a small California community outside Santa Cruz. Sara Jansen met Fiore in the fifth grade.

"Oh, God, Jasmine was just exciting," Jansen told ABC News. "She brought a new lease on life to us up here. ... [She] was a beautiful girl, and she knew that could take her places. She wanted big things in her life, and was gonna go get them."

Beauregard described the model as focused and ambitious.

"She wanted to be famous," the friend said. "This girl can -- she could reach for the stars, and she could actually obtain them."

'Everything She Thought She Wanted'

When Fiore married successful bachelor Ryan Jenkins, she did nab a star, in a way. He'd made quite a splash on the VH1 reality series "Megan Wants a Millionaire."

On the show, he described himself as "a little bit of a Prince Charming, a little bit of a bad boy."

"I typically date girls who turn a lot of heads," Jenkins said on the show. "I love the chase."

Fiore was immediately excited about Jenkins, Beauregard recalled. "She said, 'I've met a wonderful man. I love him,'" Beauregard said. "She told me that he was handsome and charismatic, and sexy, and everything that she thought she wanted."

Audi Pineda, another contestant on "Millionaire," said, "I thought Ryan was a good guy. He seemed cool, down to earth, laid back."

Pineda is a Rhode Island barber who says he owns some properties -- but he's hardly a millionaire.

"No, I'm not," he said, laughing. "I'm not worth over a million. I said I was worth over a million on the show, but that's not -- that's not true."

In a statement to "20/20," the producers of "Megan Wants a Millionaire" said they were not surprised Pineda wasn't a millionaire. Part of the fun, they said, was picking out the fakes. They also said the show was "reviewing all vetting procedures" after being "deeply troubled" that someone with a violent record had slipped through.

That contestant was Ryan Jenkins.

In January 2007, Jenkins was convicted of assaulting his then-girlfriend, Faern Jewell.

He was sentenced to 15 months probation, which included counseling for sex addiction and domestic violence.

Jenkins apparently withheld his violent past from his new wife, friends say. But a month after their wedding, it surfaced.

"He had physically abused [Fiore]," Beauregard said. "I mean, here is someone that you love, you put your trust into, and that man beats you and calls you names? Women are ashamed of that. It happens to women all the time and it's awful."

Friends now say Fiore, like many battered women, at first, kept her abuse a secret. But a friend who was also a former fiance of Fiore's got a look at what was going on.

Travis Heinrich had a chance encounter with the couple at a Vegas hotel pool, he said, and saw the darker side of their relationship.

"All of a sudden, she said something ... and then just the hand came over. Hit her right here, like in the arm," Heinrich said. "Knocked her off balance. Enough to knock her into the pool, fully dressed, everything else like that."

Shortly after that incident, according to court documents, Fiore filed a domestic violence complaint against Ryan and the couple took a break.

In light of Fiore's death at age 28, Lepore plans to set up a foundation in her daughter's memory that would help other women avoid violent-prone men. "I couldn't protect my own daughter from it," she said. "This girl did not fear men."

Jenkins, meanwhile, went to Mexico to shoot a second reality show.

Fiore went back to the Vegas singles scene, where she'd always been a hit.

"Jasmine did like men, and men liked Jasmine," Beauregard said. "And wherever we went, there were men winking at her or wanting to know who she was."

Fiore's modeling and commercial work helped sell everything from bathing suits to phone sex. But, for all her ability to attract men, friends say, something was always missing for Fiore.

"What she was looking for was true love," Beauregard said. "True love."

'Ryan Jenkins Is an Animal'

People in Las Vegas who cared about Fiore were glad to see her away from Jenkins. Some thought he'd misled her with promises.

"He figured out -- he was a salesman," Heinrich said. "He figured out every button she, like, wanted and, basically, capitalized on it."

After she'd walked away, Fiore got an e-mail from Jenkins -- dated July 27, 2009 -- that professed true and lasting love.

"If you can come back to me and stop all the craziness, we can have a wonderful life ... your forgiveness, trust and loyalty is all I need right now and when your love for me grows and our lives are heading in the right direction, I'll truly feel complete," Jenkins wrote. "I will never leave you. I only want you."

Fiore returned to Jenkins, and the reunited couple headed off for a poker tournament together. On Aug. 13, they checked into the L'Auberge Del Mar Hotel in San Diego.

Two days later, Fiore's body was found inside a suitcase, left inside a Dumpster, her fingers and teeth removed.

"Ryan Jenkins is an animal," Fiore's ex-boyfriend Robert Hasman said. "What he has done to Jasmine is unspeakable."

Friends speculate that Jenkins discovered text messages between Fiore and Hasman and flew into a jealous rage.

"He beat her up, choked her, killed her, realized what he did, tried to cover it up, panicked ... he mutilated her, and threw her in the trash," an emotional Tonja Monroe, Fiore's stylist and friend, told ABC News. "No woman belongs in the trash -- I don't care what kind of person they are, nobody deserves to die like that. Nobody."

Brad Garrett, a former FBI profiler and an ABC News consultant, said, "It is the kind of case that would get prosecuted for capital murder because it's so, it's so horrendous. These horrible acts of removing her fingers or pulling her teeth, he's only thinking about this is going to cover it up for me, so someone else will get blamed for this Jane Doe in a Dumpster."

Jenkins was charged with Fiore's murder, and the U.S. Marshall's Service offered a $25,000 reward for his capture.

"There will be no stone unturned and we'll look under every rock for him," Chief Inspector Thomas Hession said at the time.

The hunt ended a week after Fiore's body was found, when authorities discovered Jenkins hanged in a motel room closet in Hope, British Columbia. It was an apparent suicide, authorities said.

"Probably what went through his mind is, 'I just cannot get out of this,'" Garrett said. "Because, quite possibly, this stepped over the line for him, that he had done something that his psyche couldn't even deal with. And so he gets to Canada, he's alone, he starts thinking, actually, maybe he even had visions in his mind as to what he had done to this woman and he couldn't take it any longer."

Two Families Grieving

Now, both principals in the rocky romance are dead, and two families are grieving. "My condolences to Jasmine's [family], deepest, deepest condolences to their loss as well," Nada Jenkins, the suspect's mother, told a Canadian reporter. "I can't deal with this right now.

"My son is innocent. I think he panicked, and I'm just dead inside. I'm devastated, what can I tell you. I love him, he's my only child. I can't have any phone calls anymore."

Jenkins' father, Dan Jenkins, told the The Calgary Sun, "He was kind. He was sweet. He was innocent ...

"Something down there in these last four months, including this girl, just destroyed him. ... I advised him 50 times to get rid of that relationship."

It turned out Fiore had some secrets of her own.

She'd had a first marriage few people knew about, to a man named Mike Cardosi. A mutual friend, Grady Huber, showed ABC News pictures of the wedding.

Cardosi wound up spending time in jail on felony drug charges, according to court documents. Just days before she was killed, Jasmine and her mother drove Cardosi's mother to the prison to pick him up on his release day.

There were also some unsubstantiated rumors about Fiore's wedding to Jenkins being based on his desire for a green card.

"He wanted her for citizenship, they made a deal," her friend Monroe said. "I heard her say the figure $10,000 on the phone. He was supposed to deposit $10,000 into her account."

Monroe said Fiore told her the marriage was a business deal but, at least for Jenkins, it became something else.

"I think the more he was around her, the more he fell in love with her," Monroe said.

A lot of people who were close to Fiore say that was an easy thing to do.

"I'm going to miss Jasmine," Beauregard said. "And we're all hurting really, really, really bad. I can't believe something so awful could happen to such a beautiful young lady."

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