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July 22, 2017

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Teen’s unsolved death may be linked to prostitution

WEEKEND EDITION Dec. 6 - 7, 2003

The last time Pamela Brewer saw her 19-year-old daughter Jodi Marie, the teen's newly dyed blonde hair glowed like a halo around her head.

Standing at the top of the stairs in their southwest Las Vegas condominium, she told her mother she was going out for the evening.

"She was so radiant, so beautiful that night," Brewer said. "She said, 'I love you mom' ... I told her I'd see her tomorrow.' "

But Jodi Brewer didn't come home.

After filing a missing person report with Metro and enduring several agonizing weeks of waiting and wondering, she learned Aug. 29 that the body of a woman had been discovered in San Bernardino County, Calif.

The description of the tattoos on the body matched her daughter's. It was Jodi.

Three months later, no arrests have been made.

"I can't have closure," Pamela Brewer said through tears. "I lost my best friend."

Jodi Brewer had been working as a prostitute off and on for about two years, beginning when she was 17, her mother said.

Lt. Tom Monahan, head of Metro's homicide unit, said that "it's absolutely a logical possibility" that the killing was connected to prostitution.

"I don't think anyone would disagree that prostitution is a high-risk lifestyle," he said.

Street prostitutes live in the criminal underworld. They're often out on the streets and in the alleys and motel rooms in the worst parts of town late at night and very early in the morning, when not many witnesses are around.

Not only are prostitutes in physical danger at the hands of pimps and customers and at risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, they're often robbed by drug addicts who see them being dropped off by customers.

"Crackheads wait for them because they know (the prostitutes) have money," said Sgt. Gil Shannon, who is part of the Metro Police department's Stop Turning Out Child Prostitues program.

There are other physical dangers as well, he said. A few years ago on an undercover operation Shannon encountered a prostitute named Rita. She got into his car and he asked how much she charged. She puffed on the window and wrote a price with her finger -- she was deaf.

Rita eventually ended up getting struck and killed by a car because she didn't hear it coming, Shannon said.

Metro's homicide detectives have investigated four homicides of prostitutes this year, Monahan said. That's not counting any prostitutes who might have been killed while not on duty, in domestic violence, for example, he noted.

Shannon said adults are killed more frequently than children, but he recalled one case in which a 16-year-old California girl was killed in a room at the Luxor in 1997.

Sara Gruber was a runaway and moved to Las Vegas with her pimp. Just two months later, she was strangled to death as she tried to leave a customer's hotel room. Her body was discovered by a hotel maid.

She had been arrested three times during her brief stay in Las Vegas. But she was using a fake Arizona driver's license that showed her age as 21. Since police didn't know she was underage, the STOP program didn't intervene.

Like Sara Gruber, Jodi Brewer also missed a chance to receive help. She was arrested last year for loitering for the purposes of prostitution, police said. But Jodi was 18 at the time, a legal adult and as such, too old to draw the attetion of the officers who work with the STOP program.

Jodi Brewer disappeared Aug. 14.

Pamela Brewer, a longtime cocktail waitress, said Jodi's boyfriend dropped her Jodi off that night at the Harbor Island Club Apartments at 370 E. Harmon Ave. near Paradise Road.

He went to pick her up several hours later, but she wasn't there. A witness said Jodi got into a white car with California plates.

Two weeks later, parts of a woman's body were found in the desert 150 yards from Interstate 15 near the Mojave National Preserve, about 70 miles southwest of Las Vegas. A hummingbird tattoo was just over the left breast and an "M" with a star was on the lower back.

After reading about the discovery, Pamela Brewer called police in California and asked them if the woman had purple braces like Jodi did, she said. They told her they didn't know because all that had been found was a torso.

"I think (the killer) was out to commit the perfect crime and leave as little of her as possible," she said through tears. "But she had those tattoos. ... She was meant to have them."

Jodi Brewer's family had moved to Las Vegas from Seattle when she was 2. Since she was a little girl, her dream was to go to beauty school and open her own shop, her mother said.

"All she ever wanted to do was hair and makeup. Her makeup was just beautiful," Brewer said. "She was so driven. She knew exactly what she wanted to do."

Brewer describes her blue-eyed daughter as "an extremely intelligent girl," but Jodi ended up dropping out of high school, needed money "and $5.50 an hour doesn't cut it."

The lure of easy money beckoned, and Jodi began working as a prostitute. Brewer said that she turned tricks when she needed money to pay rent or make payments on her 2002 pickup truck, adding that "she liked the finer things in life."

When Brewer found out how her daughter was earning money, she "freaked out," she said. "I kicked her out. She was 17. I had no choice."

Pamela Brewer said she thinks some of Jodi's friends got her into it, but "we didn't talk about it." Asked if Jodi's boyfriend was the teen's pimp, Brewer said she didn't know.

When Jodi turned 18, Brewer said she felt she could no longer tell her strong-willed daughter what to do. Jodi, her mother and her 13-year-old sister moved into a gated apartment complex together on Jones Boulevard near Interstate 215.

"I tried to get her out of it. I told her how dangerous it was," and helped her find other jobs. "But you get used to making a lot of money over the course of a few hours."

Brewer is still waiting for Jodi's remains to be released by authorities in California, who are conducting DNA tests.

She's hoping detectives in California and Las Vegas, who are working together on Jodi's murder, will shake loose some solid clues that will help solve the case.

"You think you're safe, then something happens to your daughter or your mother," she said. "I never imagined anything so tragic would happen. She had this zest for life. She thought she was invincible."

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