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48 Hours Preview: Before actress Felicia Tang's suspicious death, she worked as a car model

Felicia Tang posing for a shoot for DSports magazine
DSports
Felicia Tang worked as a car model before her death
DSport

(CBS) LOS ANGELES - Like a lot of actresses in Los Angeles who pound the pavement confident that fame and fortune wait at the next audition, Felicia Tang paid the bills in between acting gigs working as a car model.

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So Tang's sudden, unexpected death stunned her friend Candace Kita who also worked the car circuit, sometimes right alongside Felicia.

"We all come to Hollywood with dreams of making it. Felicia was on the fast track, but one day in 2009, I couldn't believe what they told me. Felicia was gone," remembers Kita. "This was something that just came out of the blue that was so violent -- that I think it shocked all of us, all of us who knew her."

Police concluded Felicia had been tortured and murdered by her boyfriend, one-time preacher Brian Randone. From the beginning, Randone insisted on his innocence. He says he loved Felicia. "We planned on getting married ... I've never hit Felicia. I've never hit a woman, and I just, I don't do that. I did just the opposite."

In order to try and solve the mystery of exactly what happened on that last night the two lovers spent together in Randone's suburban Los Angeles apartment, a jury would have to decide between two very different accounts of how the young actress and model died.

Before her death, Tang had actually landed major roles in two high velocity, high earning, feature films: "Fast and the Furious" and "Rush Hour 2." 

"Felicia was definitely a natural when it comes to modeling," explains car-mag publisher Michael Ferrara, who gave Tang her first break as a cover girl on what claims to be the "world's biggest import performance magazine," DSport.

Imports are "Japanese super cars," compact import cars that have been upgraded for super-charged speed with turbo chargers, nitrous systems and high performance parts.

Ferrara prides himself on creating opportunities for Asian or Latino models, who do not necessarily fit the classic mold of tall, lean, runway models. DSport has a direct and simple approach.

"Fast cars and hot girls have gone together since the beginning of motor sports," explains Ferrara, who puts a bikini model posing in front of a tricked-out, performance car on the cover of every issue.

"The babes go with the car kind of like hamburgers go with French fries," explains Kita, who has also modeled for DSport. "You have beautiful women -- showcasing an amazing car. It's a culture unto its own. And it's a thriving, thriving underground culture."

Ferrara invited a "48 Hours" production crew to film a typical photography shoot at the DSport performance testing garage with models Maureen Chen and Kim Lee, each of whom have graced the cover of DSport.

Like Tang, the women you see in DSport also have Hollywood cred. Kim Lee can be seen in the feature film "Hangover II." Candace Kita has a long list of credits, including comedies like "Two and a Half Men" in which she shares a bit alongside Charlie Sheen.

There are so many working actresses, like these car models, who might not be so fortunate to lead the glamorous lives of Hollywood movie stars, but every day's audition holds the promise of that big career break. In the meantime, car modeling presents the opportunity to get their face out to the public, earn a buck and hone their skills.

Paying the bills is hard work explains Kita.

"In the Hollywood scene, [when] you're successful, people think that you're out partying all the time and that you're wild and you're crazy. But the reality of every day for us is that you're out pounding the pavement every day. You're going to auditions or go-sees, castings and interviews. You have to be really on your tip-top shape to be able to get out there, not only to compete, but to get the job."

Greg Fisher is a producer for "48 Hours." Contact him at fisherg@cbsnews.com or on Twitter twitter.com/cbscrimefish