Courtney Aoki, a.k.a Kitty Kitanna, Danced at a Weekly Best of 2012 Spot and was Engaged and Pregnant--But Was the Slain Woman an Escort?
The young woman whose murder in Ladera Ranch apparently kicked off last Tuesday's Orange County freeway shooting spree that ended with a total of four dead (including the shooter) has a connection to the OC Weekly.
A very loose connection, that is.
According to the model/actress' Facebook page under her stage name, Kitty Kitanna, she was also a dancer--at Eye Candy Bikini Bar in Costa Mesa. That was the Weekly's Best of 2012 Bikini Bar, based on the entry that begins like this: "If you're going to go to a bikini bar, then go to a place where hipsters are shown the door; where ogling is not only accepted, but also mandatory; where the drink prices haven't changed in 20 years and the music doesn't stray far from Lynyrd Skynyrd." Directions to the establishment can be found through our company's award-winning Voices Places app.
Courtney Aoki/Kitty Kitanna, R.I.P.
Her Facebook page reveals Aoki was engaged, that on Jan. 26 she "liked" Cavallero Fangs, "a Community Page about Vampires," and that the 20-year-old Buena Park resident leaves behind this cryptic favorite quote: "Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today."
(That quote has been attributed by others to the late actor James Dean, but it is actually a variation on this hadith from the Islamic Prophet Muhammed" "Live for your afterlife as if you will die tomorrow, and live for this life as if you will live forever.")
Ali Syed, also 20, is accused of fatally shooting Aoki in his parents' Ladera Ranch home before going on a carjacking-murder-suicide-random-shooting spree that also took the lives of Melvin Lee Edwards, 69 of Laguna Hills, and Jeremy Lewis, 26, of Fullerton. Moments later, Syed is said to have turned his shotgun on himself.
There is no mention of Aoki's death on the Kitty Kitanna page, but her fiance Dave "Lefty" Gutierrez has pretty much turned his Facebook page into a memorial to her. He made a large banner photo on his page out of this image:
"Lefty" remembers his "Kitty."
Gutierrez includes messages like these: "R.I.P my pretty Kitty; I'll always love you now & in death. R.I.P 6/27/92-2/19/13," and "I was engaged with her all along but now may she rest in peace. She deserves @ least that much if anything. Gone but never forgotten." According to words he reportedly gave to KCBS/Channel 2 news on Sunday, he is also mourning the loss of a child as he revealed Aoki was three months pregnant. They were to marry in the spring.
"But dangers of the world just ate up my girl and my kid," Gutierrez told CBS2/KCAL9's Andrea Fujii. "She was going down a slippery slope, people wanted to take advantage of her. And unfortunately I couldn't be there 100 percent of the time."
The Lakewood resident and Dani Wood, Aoki's best friend dating back to their days at Renaissance High in Long Beach, denied to Fujii an ex-boyfriend of Aoki's assertion that the slain woman worked as a paid escort, insisting she was only the operator for an escort agency and had left behind being an escort herself years ago.
But Wood reportedly said the opposite to KABC/Channel 7 on Saturday: ""My baby sister was an escort. [Syed] probably wanted her for a job." She claimed Aoki met Syed for the first time that night. A driver for such a service popped up in a previous KTLA/Channel 5 report claiming Aoki was working as an escort that night in Ladera Ranch.
Sheriff's investigators are still probing what brought Aoki to Syed's home at 4:45 a.m. A possible Aoki-Syed-Lewis connection is also reportedly being investigated, as is the role of video gaming. Interestingly, Gutierrez's "likes" include Grand Theft Auto IV, the same game some media outlets flashed on screens over the sheriff department revelations that Syed was a loner and a gamer who seldom left his room at 5 Red Leaf Lane.
Blaming gaming sparked much mocking on sites like Talking Points Memo, which includes this from "Nobody Special" four days ago: "I play a banjo obsessively. I've yet to sleep with my sister." Another commenter wonders why playing shoot-em-up video games can be immediately dismissed as a contributor to acting out violently by some of the same people who quickly point to frequent visits to a real-world shooting range as tell-tale signs.
Whatever Aoki was doing at Syed's, it's clear from previous media reports she had been an aspiring actress since at least her teen years, as she was quoted in a Daily Pilot story from a years back about an acting workshop for at-risk kids at the Segerstrong Performing Arts Center. "I've always wanted to be an actress, and this is helping me towards my goal," Aoki says in the piece.
She has program officials and former teachers who remember her as a dedicated student to dance and theater. Aoki also leaves behind a mother and two sisters who are crushed, based on their comments to the media.
Syed's mother is also no doubt dealing with grief but that is not all. Robert O'Connor, the father of 4-year-old Ava O'Connor who was severely injured in a hit and run accident in Irvine in June 2011, tells the Weekly the alleged driver Sarwat Syed has a pre-trial hearing scheduled in Santa Ana this morning. She faces felony hit and run charges with sentencing enhancements due to the severity of the injuries to the little girl.
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