Though law-enforcement officials this weekend confirmed that the body found in the trunk of an abandoned car is that of a popular Los Angeles-area Realtor who had been missing for a week, investigators this morning still refused to say how she died and appeared to have few new clues in her disappearance.

The body of agent Julia Buchanan “Deede” Keller was found in the trunk of her 1999 Mercedes-Benz last Thursday in downtown San Diego, about 120 miles south of her home in the West Los Angeles suburb of El Segundo.

She had last been seen alive a week earlier, on July 8, while being dropped off at her home by a date. Keller’s son, Michael, grew worried about his mother after she missed several appointments over the next few days.

He then went to her house and found her prized dogs left unfed, several windows open and the home’s lights and television turned on. The agent’s wallet was still in the house, but her silver 1999 Mercedes-Benz was missing.

A spokesperson for the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, which has taken the case over from San Diego and El Segundo authorities, said this morning that he couldn’t provide details about Keller’s death.

However, Sheriff’s Sgt. Don Manumaleuna says both Keller’s date and her ex-husband have been questioned by investigators and released.

Keller was an agent at Shorewood Realtors in Manhattan Beach, one of the trendiest and most expensive communities in L.A.’s popular South Bay area. Some of her co-workers and other friends last night and this morning continued to place flowers and candles in the front yard of her home.

Medical examiners in San Diego quickly conducted an autopsy on the body found in the car trunk last Thursday, but then issued a statement Friday afternoon that the case had been sealed at the request of Los Angeles County investigators.

Examiners wouldn’t identify the body or even say if it was a male or female, a blanket of silence that some of Keller’s friends and family members complained only compounded their grief.

But on Saturday, L.A. County Sheriffs gave them the news they feared: The body was indeed that of Keller, age 55.

Many of the fellow Realtors and other mourners who added to the mounting bouquets of flowers and candles in front of Keller’s El Segundo home last night talked about the agent, described by one longtime friend as “maybe the most popular person in the South Bay.”

Keller grew up in Serra Mesa, a quiet San Diego neighborhood not far from where her body was found on Thursday. She attended the private Our Lady of Peace girl’s school and graduated in 1969.

She moved to the Los Angeles area several years ago to pursue a career in real estate sales and then bought a home in El Segundo, a relatively small community on the southern edge of the Los Angeles International Airport.

Linda Greene, who stopped by Keller’s home last night to leave a single red rose on the front yard, said the agent was “a really happy person who’d find time to talk with you, no matter how busy she was.”

Greene said Keller was also a “serious ‘dog-lover,'” known for often taking in strays until their owners could be found and for rescuing animals from local shelters.

“I’d see her all the time at the (nearby) South Bay Galleria mall,” Greene remembered. “We’d talk about real estate, or dogs, or whatever while we ate ice cream.”

Greene, who lives in neighboring Torrance, also wondered whether Keller might have been found alive–or, at least investigators today might have more clues to her death–if “she had a ‘regular job’ instead of selling real estate.”

She noted that although Keller was last seen alive on a Thursday, no one became suspicious when she didn’t show up at her Shorewood Realtors office on the following Friday or Saturday because those are two of the busiest days for real estate agents.

“If you have a 9-to-5 job and don’t show up for work in the morning, somebody’s going to get worried and start calling right away,” Greene said. “But I guess that’s not the way it is in the real estate business.

“By the time the cops were called on Sunday,” Greene said, “Deede might have already been dead.”


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