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

Dogged detective scours surveillance video to find elusive violent criminal.

ByABC News
March 31, 2011, 3:55 PM

Sept. 4, 2011— -- The discovery of a woman's body -- naked, unconscious and beaten -- at an undeveloped cul-de-sac on the outskirts of Miami in 2005 was the beginning of a mystery that led to countless dead ends and an outcome that would shock even the investigators pursuing the case.

"She was dumped out and left for dead," Miami-Dade police Det. Alan Foote said of the victim, who was found curled in the grass by a utility worker on the morning of Feb. 21, 2005.

The victim didn't have any identification, so police canvassed houses near the dumping site, hoping someone would remember something, but "we got no response there," Foote said.

The next day, the victim emerged from unconsciousness, and through a fog of pain tried to communicate what happened to her.

"I remember voices around me; somebody asked me what was my name," she said.

She was unable to speak, but scrawled some basic information on a piece of paper. Detectives learned that her name was Inna Budnytska, she was Ukrainian and she worked for one of the many cruise lines that operate in Miami.

She also wrote down her attorney's name and phone number -- a detail that Foote found "very unusual."

"Was she into something criminal?" he wondered.

"Maybe they thought it was unusual that someone would ask for an attorney, but this woman had a horrific assault and probably was reaching for anything that she could," said attorney, Mitchell Lipcon.

In fact, Budnytska, now 28, had been injured on the ship where she worked, and had filed suit against the cruise line.

"I didn't know nobody," she said. "I was alone up here. So the only one person who I knew, that was my attorney."

CLICK HERE for photos of Inna Budnytska and more.

While rehabilitating from her injury, Budnytska was being housed by the cruise line at the Airport Regency, a local hotel about 10 miles east of the cul-de-sac where she was found. The hotel would prove crucial to the mystery -- especially its sophisticated security system.

"We have 16 cameras covering the whole perimeter of the hotel," said hotel vice president Jose Vazquez. "Those cameras have a motion sensor detector. We have two security guards at night on duty. So we can see anything that happens."

Foote obtained a pile of DVDs from the hotel's cameras and started scanning them for any evidence of the crime.

Victim Struggles to Remember Events: 'I Was in Shock'

Once she was able to speak, Budnytska provided a statement about her activities on the night of the attack. She said she'd gone out with a friend that night to a restaurant in Coconut Grove, Fla., returning by taxi, by herself, shortly after midnight.

Security cameras recorded her leaving the hotel again at 3:33 a.m. to buy a phone card to call her mother in Ukraine, returning just seven minutes later at 3:40 a.m. Budnytska then was recorded walking to the lobby elevators at 3:41am ... and was never seen by the cameras again.

The next thing Budnytska said she remembered was regaining consciousness for a brief moment at the cul-de-sac, where she was discovered at 8:30 a.m. that morning.

"It was very cold ... and dark," she recalled. "I couldn't stand up. I could not walk."

Budnytska remembered that much, but everything that happened in between the elevator and the cul-de-sac was a total blank.

"She has no clue what the heck happened to her," Foote said.

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