Paula Sladewski was just 26 years old when she was found burned beyond recognition in a Miami dumpster in 2010 — and her killer has never been identified.
On January 3, 2010, in a North Miami dumpster, police discovered the body of Paula Sladewski, an aspiring model and Playboy Bunny who had visited the Sunshine State for New Year’s weekend with her boyfriend, Kevin Klym. Sladewski had clearly been murdered, and her body was burned so badly that she had to be identified by her dental records.
Sladewski and Klym were known to have had a volatile relationship that was plagued by abuse and violence. So Klym was quickly eyed as a person of interest, but this was not a typical open-and-shut case. Though Klym was one of the last people to see Sladewski alive, and the couple had allegedly gotten into a physical altercation at Miami’s Club Space shortly before Sladewski vanished, the two were escorted out of the nightclub separately.
On the morning of January 3rd, Klym departed from the venue in a taxi cab, apparently heading back to the couple’s hotel alone. Video surveillance showed Sladewski leaving the club after Klym. Before long, attention shifted to the Club Space employees who were seen escorting her outside — and a man who appeared to be following Sladewski from behind.
Eventually, police released a sketch of a completely different man, who was not captured on video.
As reported by a witness, this man allegedly left a parking lot near Club Space with Sladewski just before she disappeared. But over a decade later, this man’s identity is still unknown, and Sladewski’s killer has never been tracked down. Here’s everything you need to know about Paula Sladewski’s murder and the unsolved mystery surrounding it.
Paula Sladewski And Kevin Klym’s Relationship
Paula Sladewski was born on November 15, 1983 in Garden City, Michigan. Little is known about her early years, but what is clear is that she had a troubled home life. Her father was largely absent, and her mother allegedly allowed her to “date” a 29-year-old man when she was just 14. The teen’s older sister, Kelly, was the one who reported the man to the authorities.
As Paula Sladewski grew older, she started dreaming of becoming a model. By the age of 19 or 20, she was interested in becoming a Playboy Playmate. In 2003, Sladewski appeared in the video Playboy: The Ultimate Playmate Search. But unfortunately for Sladewski, this appearance didn’t end up being the major breakthrough for her career that she had likely been anticipating.
After the Playboy video, Sladewski struggled to find jobs as a model, and reportedly began working as an exotic dancer to make ends meet.
When she was in her mid-20s, she started a relationship with Kevin Klym, who was about eight years older than her. Many of Sladewski’s loved ones saw numerous red flags in the relationship right off the bat.
“They had a horrible relationship,” remembered Sladewski’s stepfather, Richard Watkins, according to ABC News. “I have told them from the start that they shouldn’t be together.”
Watkins also said that Sladewski had once even texted an ex-boyfriend during her relationship with Klym, saying that he was “trying to kill” her.
Months before she was murdered, in the summer of 2009, Sladewski had been arrested in California for attacking Klym with a deadly weapon. According to Watkins, Sladewski had smashed a bottle over Klym’s head. The charges against Sladewski were later dropped. But then, that December, Klym was arrested in Michigan for breaking Sladewski’s nose.
By that point, the couple had been dating about a year and a half, and they decided to stay together despite their problems. They even planned a trip to Miami to ring in the New Year. According to NBC News, Sladewski was especially interested in attending a midnight Lady Gaga concert.
“Since this is the hottest ticket in town, all the celebrity — oh! She heard the celebrities going to be there, and she had — she didn’t want anything to do with anything else,” Klym recalled. “She had to go to Lady Gaga.”
Unfortunately, this trip to Miami would be the last trip Sladewski ever took.
The Brutal Murder Of Paula Sladewski
Even during what was meant to be a short, fun trip, Paula Sladewski and Kevin Klym’s relationship was in turmoil. In the early hours of January 3, 2010, the two entered Miami’s Club Space — but they didn’t leave together.
According to the Miami New Times, Club Space says that Sladewski and Klym “were engaged in a physical altercation with each other at the bar area of Club Space at approximately 7am on January 3rd.” Klym was promptly escorted outside of the venue, where he got into a taxi cab.
Sladewski was asked to leave the club after Klym, a moment captured on video surveillance around 7:20 a.m. In the video, Sladewski is escorted outside by an employee and a member of Club Space’s management staff.
The video captured some of Sladewski’s last known moments, but a witness later reported seeing Sladewski leave a nearby parking lot with an unidentified man — who would eventually be named as a potential suspect.
Later that day, Klym says he woke up in his hotel room, hungover and trying to put things together from the night before. He was alarmed to see that Sladewski was not in bed next to him. Even when the couple had fights in the past, Sladewski would always eventually come home. Klym later told NBC News that he tried to contact the police and file a missing persons report, but they told him that he had to wait until 24 hours had passed.
“And I’m freaking out. We’re from out of town. We’re vacationing,” he said. “You know, it’s not like her for her to be gone this long.”
Tragically, about 14 hours after Sladewski left Club Space, police received a call about a burning dumpster in North Miami, about 120 blocks north of Club Space in an industrial area. In the dumpster, authorities found the badly burned body of Paula Sladewski — who was identified by her dental records.
The Ongoing Search For An Unidentified Killer
Unsurprisingly, Kevin Klym was quickly named a person of interest in the murder case. After all, he and Paula Sladewski had fought often during their relationship, and he was one of the last people known to have seen her alive. But even though some remain suspicious of him because of their history, he has long been cleared by police as a potential suspect.
Sladewski’s sister, Kelly Farris, who was heavily involved in raising awareness about the case, also doubts that Klym was responsible, citing the remote location of the dumpster where Sladewski’s body was found: “He had no way of transporting her. They didn’t even have a rental car.”
After police saw the surveillance footage outside Club Space that showed Klym and Sladewski leaving the venue separately, they started believing that Klym was innocent. Klym’s case for his innocence was further strengthened after a witness reported seeing Sladewski leave a parking lot near the venue with “a heavyset black male or Hispanic male with a goatee.” Before long, police released a sketch of the man based on the witness’ description.
Unfortunately, this possible suspect was not captured on camera, and there was some confusion in the media after Klym publicly suggested that the potential suspect could have been a bouncer at Club Space — or perhaps even the man who was captured on camera walking behind Sladewski after she was escorted out of the venue that morning.
“The individual walking behind Paula on the video, contrary to Mr. Klym’s claims, is not a man who resembles the man in the police sketch. The man escorting Paula in the video is Caucasian with no facial hair,” Club Space responded in a statement. The venue added, “None of our Security staff or employees abandoned their post or their shift at 7 AM to follow Paula. They are all on camera and accounted for. Furthermore, the police sketch of the possible suspect does not match any of our security staff or employees.”
The possible suspect’s identity remains unknown to this day, but Klym believes it was a man who had already been speaking with Sladewski that night, perhaps a customer in Club Space. He doesn’t think that she would’ve gone off with a stranger she met on the street: “She knew how to read guys. And, listen, I mean, she’d been working in clubs in Detroit for eight years. Okay, Detroit’s not a nice area. And she never had any problems.”
According to CBS News, North Miami Police Cmdr. Michael Gaudio believes that the murderer was someone who was very familiar with the industrial area where Paula Sladewski’s body was dumped and may have even lived nearby: “The theory is that she was killed someplace else and was brought there and someone had known where the dumpster was. That’s not something that someone had common knowledge of.”
More than a decade later, Gaudio says he is still haunted by the unsolved murder case: “It’s the one I didn’t solve. To be unable to give the family closure does bother me. I still think about it to this day.”
After learning about the Paula Sladewski case, go inside the murder of Dorothy Stratten, another Playboy model who met a horrific end. Then, read about the case of Kristin Smart, whose murder was solved by a podcast.