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Former Beauty Queen Found Dead In Dirt Field

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - Jill Ann Weatherwax had the looks, the talent and the motivation. But her quest for fame and fortune took a dark turn somewhere, and the woman who once was Miss Hollywood was found stabbed to death in a dirt field. The 27-year-old former beauty queen's scantily clad body was found March 25 in a field frequented by prostitutes and littered with used condoms. It took a week to identify the body from fingerprints. It wasn't too long ago that some in her hometown of Fenton, Mich., thought Ms. Weatherwax had what it took to make it in show business. She even took some steps in that direction, moving to the heart of the entertainment industry in Southern California several years ago. Authorities were not sure how she ended up in Fresno, about 200 miles north of Los Angeles. "We've talked to several friends in Southern California, but that really hasn't assisted us in our investigation why she was found dead in Fresno," Sgt. Daryl Green said Thursday. "We know she was here alive so there's no reason to believe she was killed somewhere else." The 5-foot-9 brunette sang, danced and dominated Michigan beauty pageants from 1987 to 1990. She was a Miss Flint pageant finalist; held the title of Miss Spring, Miss Winter and Miss Summer in Saginaw; and also was crowned Miss Great Lakes. "She was extremely talented. She had the modeling. She had the looks," said Susan Arrand, a Michigan modeling agency owner who met Ms. Weatherwax when she was 13. "It is hard to pick a talent where she excelled most. She had extreme audience appeal. There was this innocence about her that came across whether she was on stage or doing print work," Ms. Arrand told The Flint Journal. Kenneth Wensel, principal of Fenton High School, remembered Ms. Weatherwax as an attractive, sweet and smart girl who led cheers on the sidelines during games. "I know that there's a lot of crazy stuff that goes on in this world. I just don't know how it impacted her," he said Thursday. "I just feel bad. I feel bad for her and for her family." As a teen-ager, Ms. Weatherwax performed folk and contemporary duets with her father, who once sang with a folk group at Carnegie Hall and played the guitar and saxophone in a local country band. Her older brother, who didn't want his name used, said their parents were at a funeral home making arrangements for a memorial service Friday in Fenton. When Ms. Weatherwax moved to Southern California several years ago, she found immediate success in a beauty pageant. Her title as Miss Hollywood gave her a chance to record two CDs with a recording company in London. However, Ms. Weatherwax's life on the West Coast also included running with a fast-paced crowd and changing boyfriends frequently, a friend said. When she returned from London, her demeanor had changed drastically, friend Benet Garcia said. "She was incredibly paranoid," he said. "She was convinced that somebody was trying to kill her." In the last 11 months, she was arrested three times in Ventura County for drug possession and being drunk in public, court records show. "It's puzzling. It's frustrating," Wensel said. "I can't begin to know what could have gone wrong. ... She was a sweet girl. She was a lovely girl and if she ran into complications, I'm sorry for that. I know she had a good heart."

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