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obit: Janiece Vitek: Just How She died is a Mystery

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  • Rosemary Ermis
    San Antonio Express-News (TX) - October 9, 2005 Deceased Name: Janiece Vitek: Just how she died is a mystery On New Year s Eve, Janiece Vitek, a top-flight
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 2, 2009
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      San Antonio Express-News (TX) - October 9, 2005

      Deceased Name: Janiece Vitek: Just how she died is a mystery

      On New Year's Eve, Janiece Vitek, a top-flight sales agent for KB Home, had dinner with a business friend at the Menger Hotel. Amid the usual girl talk, Vitek complained about a client whose aggressive flirtations unnerved her.

      "She said he had started to come around the office a lot and was calling a lot. She said, 'He's starting to get kind of creepy,"' recalled the friend, who asked not to be named.

      On Jan. 13, just two weeks later, Vitek, 25, was found dead in her locked apartment off Stone Oak Parkway. She was partly clothed, and her keys, purse, cell phone, car, laptop computer and some jewelry were missing.

      The night before, a KB Home watchman had discovered her sales office near Randolph Boulevard unlocked. A mysterious bouquet of flowers and box of chocolates were on the desk, and her open briefcase had been left behind.

      At the apartment, there were no obvious signs of foul play, and initially, police suspected a drug overdose, suicide or natural death.

      However, the autopsy revealed no illegal drugs or alcohol in her body. Nor did it show signs of trauma. The cause of death was listed as "undetermined."

      According to the Vitek family, police soon focused on the aggressive homebuyer as a prime suspect. He had a history of violent crime, and police found Vitek's rental car and laptop in his possession, family members said.

      No one was charged, and nine months later, the case has stalled.

      "It's still active. We're waiting for some test results, DNA," said San Antonio police Sgt. Donald Mize, who confirmed the car and laptop were recovered but declined to say if detectives have a suspect or even believe the death was a homicide.

      "We can't say she was killed. All we can say is she died and the circumstances are suspicious, which is why we're investigating," he said, declining to discuss specifics.

      Police say Vitek might have succumbed to an obscure medical condition uncovered in her autopsy. Her family, as well as some friends, have no doubt she was abducted while working and murdered.

      Reward offered

      Last week, the reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible was raised to nearly $60,000. Of that, her family and friends are pledging $45,000, KB Home is offering $10,000, and San Antonio Crime Stoppers will pay up to $5,000 for information that resolves the case.

      "I've always said two people came to her office that day, and took her. It was a model home area. There was no one around. Her partner was off that day," said Vitek's mother, Glenda Vitek of Wichita Falls.

      She also had heard her daughter complain, shortly before her death, about an aggressive homebuyer.

      "She said, 'I just don't like him. He makes me feel creepy,"' recalled Glenda Vitek, who said there was nothing amiss in her daughter's personal life that could have led to her death.

      "She only drank socially. She did not have bad friends. She did not do drugs. She had never slept with a man. She was telling me about that at Christmas, that she had lost lots of boyfriends because of that," said Glenda Vitek.

      "She was stunningly gorgeous, she was brilliant and she was a target," her mother said.

      Born in 1979 in Wichita Falls as the elder of two daughters, Janiece Vitek got a finance degree at Midwestern State University, traveling to China for a summer trip where she taught English and studied Chinese.

      She attended Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on an academic scholarship and got an MBA in 2002 with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average. A year later, she was hired by KB Home, where she quickly made her mark as a well-liked top producer.

      "We all saw Janiece as vivacious, incredibly intelligent and very committed to her customers. She was a very compassionate and warm person, and also very responsible and ethical," said Cathy Teague, a company spokeswoman.

      She also was an ace sales agent. Teague recalled one month when supervisors had set a target of five sales for each salesperson and Vitek stunned everyone by vowing to sell 13 and then exceeding her goal by one.

      Teague declined to discuss any of Vitek's clients, but said no one at KB Home recalls her voicing concerns about any of them before she died.

      Pat Hook, 52, who sold homes with Vitek at Bristol Place, a community off Randolph Boulevard, said he came to regard her almost as a daughter, and cautioned her against taking chances with customers.

      "Having said that, Janiece was more than willing to help anyone in need. When she looked at someone, she saw an opportunity to make a sale, and she would give people the benefit of the doubt," he said.

      Hook said Vitek chose not to carry a pocket alarm that KB Home offered sales personnel.

      On Jan. 13, Hook said he rushed to Vitek's apartment when he heard she was dead. There, he encountered police and other KB Home workers and friends.

      "From the moment I entered the apartment, I knew she had been murdered, but there was definitely a difference of opinion," he said. "The police, I believe, were looking at it as suicide or overdose. I told the detective, 'You are looking in the wrong direction.' She loved life too much to commit suicide."

      Glenda Vitek said all the information she has collected over the past nine months points to murder.

      Office and cell phone records show her daughter's normal business and personal calls ended shortly after 11 a.m. on Jan. 12, and later that afternoon she missed a business appointment.

      But Janiece's part-time roommate told of receiving two brief phone calls from Janiece just after 3 p.m. on the day she vanished, Glenda Vitek said. Phone records confirm her account.

      According to the roommate's account to Glenda Vitek, she asked Janiece both times if she were OK, and both times Janiece replied with slurred speech, "Are you at the apartment?" Both times the roommate asked, "Do you need me to come to the apartment?" and both times Janiece said no and hung up.

      Cause of death

      Although the autopsy makes no mention of unusual marks on her body, funeral home workers later found extensive bruising when they prepared her for the service in Wichita Falls.

      "I remember bruising on her wrists, arms and thighs. I remember having to put makeup on both wrists. And it says on our embalmer's report from San Antonio that she had bruises on her forehead," said Jennifer Rhone, the director of Owens and Brumley Funeral Home.

      "The police were trying to tell Glenda that those were embalmer bruises, but embalming does not cause bruises," she said.

      Dr. Kimberly Molina, an assistant Bexar County medical examiner who did the autopsy, said the bruises likely were the result of decomposition, not trauma. And she said Vitek tested negative for the two most commonly found "date rape" drugs.

      And while the heart condition found in Vitek can cause sudden death, Molina said in this case there was not enough of the inflammation to make that ruling.

      "Just because you have a negative autopsy does not mean it was not a homicide, she said, adding that there are ways to kill people and leave no evidence of it.

      Dr. Sparks Veasey, the former head of the autopsy section for the University of Texas Medical School at Galveston, also downplayed the significance of the heart condition.

      "I would have come to the same conclusion -- undetermined cause of death," Veasey said.

      Dr. Jody Barnard, chief medical examiner for Dallas County, who also reviewed the autopsy, said that while the cause of Vitek's death is unknown, she could have been killed with a difficult-to-detect drug.

      "If you get someone really loaded up on some type of drug, you can cover their face and smother them, or just put them face-down on the bed, and it won't leave the normal signs, like the little hemorrhages in the eye," he said.

      "The other possibility is giving them some weird drug you don't routinely test for," he said.

      Glenda Vitek fears the investigative trail has grown cold and that without outside help, the killer never will be charged.

      "There are so many people who are so heartbroken about this, we hope the reward will make it worthwhile to someone to tell what happened to Janiece. I'm convinced that other people are aware how she died," she said.

      "We keep praying and praying for an answer. I know there will be one sometime, but we have to do something to make it happen," she said.
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