Aspiring Actress Dead in SoCal Murder Mystery

Cops in California probe the killing of a 21-year-old found dead Sunday night.

March 18, 2008— -- Authorities in Southern California are investigating the murder of an aspiring actress whose body was found Sunday night in her Santa Monica apartment.

Juliana Redding, 21, was found dead "as the result of an assault" when authorities went to her home to check on her well-being, Lt. Alex Padilla of the Santa Monica Police Department told ABC News.

"Friends had been trying to contact her," Padilla said. "They called her mom, she called our department."

An autopsy at the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office that will determine the exact time and cause of Redding's death could be finished as soon as today, Padilla said. It was unclear how long the young woman, an Arizona native, had been dead before authorities found her body.

Padilla would not say whether a weapon was used to kill Redding, citing an ongoing investigation that could be jeopardized by releasing such details. But he did say that it's was clear the young woman had been assaulted before she died.

"There were obvious signs of trauma," Padilla said. "At that point, we started interviewing neighbors about who'd seen her last. Now we're trying to put the pieces together."

Padilla added that it is impossible to know whether police are searching for one or more suspects in the killing.

Santa Monica investigators collected blood samples from a sidewalk near Redding's apartment that may be tied to the homicide investigation.

Sury Nunez, one of Redding's neighbors, told ABC News' Los Angeles affiliate KABC that she had planned on going out to play pool with Redding over the weekend.

"That same night we were supposed to go out to play pool, but we thought she was already out since we saw the lights were off," Nunez said.

Redding attended Salpointe Catholic High School in Tucson, where she played on the golf team. She was taking college courses in California, according to Padilla.

Redding came to Southern California to pursue an acting career. In 2005, she earned a small role in the film "Kathy T Gives Good Hoover," according to the movie's official Web site.

While filming the movie in Atlanta, Redding met Greg Cipes, another actor in the film. The two began dating, Cipes' agent, Ben Bintonti, confirmed to ABC News, and Redding appeared in a music video for one of Cipes' songs.

Redding and Cipes, who has appeared in "Deadwood" and "Cold Case," and has had other television and film roles, remained friends until six months ago, when they stopped communicating, Bintonti said.

"There was always a close relationship between the two of them," he said. "There was a lot of love."