Woman Left for Dead: What Happened in Miami Airport Hotel Mystery?


"The memory was not clear because ... I was in shock," she said.

Cops inspected the landscaping below Budnytska's fourth-story balcony on the off-chance she might have been lowered or dropped from there, unseen by the security cameras.

Foote also began following other leads, including interviewing the hotel's night manager, George Perez, who had a master key to all the rooms.

Perez attracted investigators' attention because he was seen on hotel surveillance video talking with Budnytska at the hotel front desk "several times," Foote said.

Then, at 2:16 a.m., there was an odd encounter -- Perez left the front desk unattended and went into the elevator with Budnytska. He was gone for approximately 15 minutes, and then returned to the desk -- alone.

Perez initially told Foote that he helped Budnytska into her room because she was intoxicated. In fact, he later admitted that he'd been socializing with Budnytska.

"I was friends with her in the workplace; I also had a friendship with her outside of the workplace," he said. "I thought very highly of her."

As the investigation advanced, one new piece of evidence emerged: Budnytska wasn't just beaten, she also was raped -- and DNA from her attacker had been recovered from her body. Samples were obtained voluntarily from Perez and another suspect, a friend of Budnytska's, Peter Dimouleas.

Budnytska also began to piece together more memories of the attack, filling in the time gap between the time she last was seen on the elevator cameras and the cul-de-sac ... but she could only recall fragments.

"I saw dreams, I saw nightmares," she said. "For me, it was very difficult to realize what was the reality, what was not the reality."

Budnytska told Foote that at least two men were responsible -- Caucasian men, possibly with Spanish accents.

"I don't remember the faces. ... I remember, a person putting, like, a pillow or something," she said. "And then it's dark, you know. It's just like a feeling that you cannot breathe."

Budnytska even tried hypnosis to clarify her memories. She said she remembered being carried down a back staircase out into a car, driving somewhere and being raped in the back seat while "somebody was laughing."

But surveillance cameras didn't show that, and Foote's frustration grew, he said.

"We reached a dead end on that point. It just didn't fit," he said.

He suspected there was more to Budnytska's story than she was able -- or willing -- to tell.

Like many hotels, the Airport Regency has a key-card security system that logs each time a guest swipes their key to enter a room. Security cameras clocked Budnytska entering the elevator for the final time at 3:41 a.m. But the log of key swipes at her door showed her entering her room at 3:58 a.m. -- an unexplained gap of 17 minutes.

That led police to suspect that Budnytska might be a prostitute. They theorized that during the 17 minutes she had gone to service a John, an encounter that could have led to the attack. But Foote said they found "absolutely zilch, nothing to indicate that she was as prostitute," and decided that was not true. Ultimately the time gap also could be explained by two separate clock systems that were not in sync.

For months, the case went nowhere. Meanwhile, Budnytska filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the hotel, citing lax security. Denying any wrongdoing, the hotel hired a private investigator named Ken Brennan to investigate her claims.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...