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Story pick: 'Case of the Vanishing Blonde'

By J. Freedom du Lac

"From the start, it was a bad case," Mark Bowden writes in the opening of a powerhouse piece in the new issue of Vanity Fair. "A battered 21-year-old woman with long blond curls was discovered face down in the weeds, naked, at the western edge of Miami, where the neat grid of outer suburbia butts up against the high grass and black mud of the Everglades. It was early on a winter morning in 2005. A local power-company worker was driving by the empty lots of an unbuilt cul-de-sac when he saw her.

"And much to his surprise, she was alive."

The journalist and bestselling author ("Black Hawk Down," "Killing Pablo") writes that the woman "had been raped, badly beaten, and left for dead. There was severe head trauma; she had suffered brain-rattling blows." Shortly thereafter, the woman filed a lawsuit against the hotel where she'd been staying when the attack occurred. She alleged negligence. Detectives smelled something funny. "This was not your typical rape victim," Bowden writes. "What if she was part of some sophisticated con?"

The police investigation went cold, but a private dick hired by the hotel made it his mission to crack the code on the case -- and, in doing so, became the star of Bowden's story. It's a fairly epic investigative yarn.

By J. Freedom du Lac  | November 12, 2010; 8:20 AM ET
Categories:  Story Picks, The inside story  
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