A former contestant on the reality show America’s Next Top Model has been murdered in a triple homicide. Mirjana Puhar competed during the 21st and most recent round of supermodel Tyra Banks’ television show.
TMZ reported that the former contestant was discovered dead at the Charlotte, N.C., home of her boyfriend. The gossip site also reported that there were three dead at the scene from gunshot wounds, including Puhar. Authorities arrested 19-year-old Emmanuel Jesus Rangel for the murders on Wednesday. He has been charged with three instances of first-degree homicide. Rangel is currently in the custody of the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office. He also faces charges for a murder on Sunday in Matthews, N.C.
Police reports indicate that the police department in Charlotte-Mecklenburg responded to a home in the Tryon Hills neighborhood on Tuesday evening to investigate gunshots reported. Before the arrival of police, a friend had found the bodies of the former contestant and her boyfriend, but it was not until officers arrived that the third victim was discovered. The other victims are identified as Jusmar Isiah Gonzaga-Garcia, 21, and Jonathan Cosme Alvarado, 23.
Authorities released a statement in which they said that they believe Rangel, former contestant Puhar and the other victims were all known to each other. They called the shootings “drug-related.”
Puhar and her family came to the United States as Serbian refugees of the Kosovo War when she was 5 years old. Her family settled in New York City with a total of approximately $50. They later settled in North Carolina, where her father works as an electrician and her mother is employed at a restaurant. The former contestant on America’s Next Top Model also has a younger brother.
The contestant started modeling occasionally when she was 12, and later grew to be 5-feet-9 1/2-inches tall. Against her parents’ wishes, she dropped out of her Charlotte high school during her sophomore year, when she was 16. Speaking to The Charlotte Observer, Puhar admitted that she had been “a wild child” and that she had “[gone] out, had fun, partied, whatever.”
She began to seriously pursue modeling when she was 17, and worked at modeling centers in Charlotte, including John Casablancas and Barbizon. She also appeared on the runway at Charlotte Fashion Week. She worked for a time at McDonald’s before earning a GED just prior to her stint as a contestant on America’s Next Top Model.
Puhar, 19, was a contestant on the The CW’s modeling competition show in 2014, and competed against 14 other aspiring models for a grand prize which included a magazine spread, a modeling contract and a Guess modeling campaign worth $100,000. During filming, she was the youngest contestant on the show as well as one of the shortest. She was eliminated from the show during the tenth episode of the contest. Those who knew her as well as fans of her modeling career and her stint as a contestant on America’s Next Top Model expressed their sadness on social media.
In a joint statement released on Wednesday evening, Banks and Ken Mok, the executive producers of America’s Next Top Model, expressed deep sadness for the death of the show’s former contestant. “She was a vivacious and promising young woman.”
By Jennifer Pfalz