A body that was pulled from a shallow grave in Northern California was positively identified Wednesday as that of a model and aspiring actress who disappeared from Hollywood last month.
Nevada County sheriff’s Lt. Rob Bringolf said Adea Shabani, 25, suffered “blunt force trauma to her head,” but a final cause of death was deferred pending toxicology and tissue tests. The autopsy did not find any other major trauma on her body, but she was identified through tattoos, Bringolf said.
Her death has been ruled a homicide, according to the sheriff’s office.
The shallow grave was found by Los Angeles Police Department detectives Monday in the Spenceville Wildlife Area about 40 miles north of Sacramento. The body was carefully removed from the grave Tuesday, and police said it was believed to be Shabani, but the formal identification was delayed until Wednesday morning’s autopsy.
Shabani was last seen on the afternoon of Feb. 23 leaving her home near the 1700 block of Wilcox Avenue, between Hollywood Boulevard and Franklin Avenue, with a fellow acting-school student named Christopher Spotz, LAPD Capt. William P. Hayes said. Spotz fatally shot himself in Riverside County last Thursday following a police chase.
Hayes said Shabani and Spotz took a trip to Northern California on Feb. 23. Shabani was reported missing two days later. Spotz eventually released a statement through his attorney that the pair had gotten into a fight during the trip, and he claimed he dropped her off in the Santa Clarita area and never saw her again.
Hayes said investigators doubt the veracity of that claim.
Shabani and Spotz, 33, of North Hollywood, were involved in a romantic relationship although Spotz was engaged to someone else with whom he traveled to Colorado at the beginning of March, Hayes said.
Shabani came from Macedonia and had been in Los Angeles less than two years, according to her friends. Her family hired a private investigator to help find her and offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to her whereabouts.
As the investigation progressed, police began searching for Spotz in hopes of examining his Toyota Tacoma pickup for possible clues, Hayes said. Spotz was spotted in the Tacoma in San Bernardino County last Thursday night and fled when police tried to stop him. The chase led from Hesperia to the Corona area, where Spotz fatally shot himself, Hayes said.
Hayes said investigators are examining evidence collected from the pickup truck and a rental car used by Spotz while in Colorado. Investigators believe “Spotz was somehow involved in her death.”
Spotz, who attended the Stella Adler Academy of Acting with Shabani, appeared in various short films over the past three years and had a minor role in a forthcoming web series “The Shoaks,” according to IMDB.com.
Friends and relatives of Shabani held a candlelight vigil in Shabani’s memory Tuesday night near her Hollywood apartment.