Date rape drug death: Family still seeks clues

Many questions remain for the family of Julia Sumnicht, a Wisconsin college student who died on a spring break trip to Florida in March 2010.

Sumnicht, a junior at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, aspired to become a sports announcer and model. But last year, while visiting Miami Beach, the 21-year-old died. A toxic level of GHB, or gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, a clear, odorless substance commonly used in date rape drugs, was found in her system.

Sometime after midnight on the day she died, Julia met up with Zoltan Prepszent -- a celebrity photographer 15 years her senior -- at a club in South Beach. The two had met the year before, according to private investigator Chris Catania, of C3 Detective Agency.

Catania said of Zoltan, "(He) was a photographer, club promoter down in the Miami Beach area, a paparazzi kind of guy."

The two, seen together in surveillance video, arrived at the nearby Flamingo Towers at 4:00 a.m. -- Prepszent shared the condo with 44-year-old Jason Itzler.

Itzler, who called himself the "king of all pimps," is currently in New York facing felony charges of promoting prostitution and selling drugs. According to the New York Post, Itzler placed himself at the condo with the couple.

Catania said, "(Itzler) admitted to ... being in the apartment with Julia, and that he had consumed GHB himself. Knowing that Julia wouldn't have taken the drug on her own and that Itzler had access to it, you know, as an investigator, you put two-and-two together, and someone slipped Julia that drug."

Julia took pictures of herself -- one with her eyes closed just prior to her death. An autopsy found Julia had high levels of the date rape drug in her system, but only trace amounts of alcohol.

Catania said, "My belief is that, while she was at Club Set (a club in Miami) she was protecting herself, taking care of herself, you know, having a good time, but she was not consuming alcohol."

To date, no one has been charged in Julia's death and the investigation is ongoing.

Julia's parents, Marie and Dan Sumnicht, and Julia Sumnicht's sister, Jojo, continue their search for justice, but the wait isn't easy.

Dan Sumnicht said the family is very frustrated. He said, "It's been 602 days, and we're still waiting for answers. ... We know that you can't dictate necessarily how leads will come in, but we just want to raise awareness and keep momentum going to try to get this investigation completed."

The photos Julia took just prior to her death, the family says, are important in the case. Marie Sumnicht said, "We feel as a family, especially, that they were kind of a call for help. She was telling us that something was wrong. Something was not right. She would -- from what we know of her -- she would not take pictures like that, so we feel very strongly she's calling for help, she's telling us something. Something is wrong."

Jojo Sumnicht says her sister wouldn't put herself in this unsafe situation. "My mother home-schooled four of us until middle school," she said. "(Julia) was always my best friend. And because of that connection, I just know what she would do or say in situations. And Julia was a fighter. She fought for things that were right, and I just know that in this, she'd be the first to have my back in anything. And I want to fight for this for her."

The family is looking for someone to be held accountable in Julia's death.

Julia's father said the family "has ideas" about who is culpable.

He said, "I think you can look at the events, and there is (a) certain list of people. I think we will look forward to the police completing that investigation. ... Right now, I think we are (confident) I think there are some pieces of evidence coming in, and we just hope the police will investigate those."

Julia Sumnicht's family urges anyone with information to contact the police.

And for other families, the Sumnichts say they want people to be aware of the date rape drug's existence.

Marie Sumnicht said, "This is not a game. You can't be too careful. And also, to the people actually using and giving out these drugs: this is what has happened to our family, leaving a huge hole in our hearts and our lives and literally changing our lives forever. And people just need to be aware of these consequences."

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