Julia Sumnicht

Miami Beach cops are investigating the death of the former UW-La Crosse student, Julia Sumnicht, who died in her sleep while on a trip to Miami Beach, Fl. in March 2010 for modeling. According to the Miami-Dade County Investigations Report, Sumnicht attended a Heat basketball game and then went clubbing on South Beach. She returned to the apartment in which she was staying at approximately 6:30 a.m. on March 15 and went to sleep. Her friend awoke shortly after she arrived and left the apartment. He returned several times during the day and observed her still sleeping. At approximately 5 p.m. and found her unresponsive in the bed.
Toxicology testing revealed no ethanol, but high levels of gammahydroxybutyric acid (GHB). The concentration of GHB in her blood was within the range of reported fatalities, according to the report.
With questions left unanswered, the Sumnicht family hired a private investigator. Chris Cantania of the C3 Detective Agency in Oshkosh, Wis. said that the investigation is still open, but investigators have narrowed it down to three suspects. “It’s been challenging, but Miami police have been more than cooperative,” said Cantania, “We have surveillance, we have text messages and even photos from the last 18 to 24 hours of Julia’s life.”
According to Cantania, Sumnicht met Zoltan Prepszent, a Hungarian photographer, a year before during her first visit to the city for modeling. Text messages from Sumnicht’s phone provide evidence that lead investigators to believe Prepszent and Sumnicht spent time together at the club, returned to the Flamingo Towers apartment where he lived with Jason Itzler, also known as “King of All Pimps.”
According to Cantania Itzler is currently incarcerated in a Manhattan jail on unrelated charges of promoting prostitution and drug sales. “This kind of behavior isn’t unusual for Itzler,” said Cantania, “We’ve been digging into his background. He used to run an escort agency in New York known as NY Confidential. He was connected to the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal in 2008. Itzler is an important part of this equation. He’s an interesting subject.”
According to The New York Post during a jailhouse interview Itzler admitted to taking GHB himself that night after Sumnicht came to his apartment with Prepzsent. “I almost died that night,” said Itzler, “Zoltan [later] changed all the decorating of the apartment. He knew I threw up all over the apartment. I vomited GHB residue all over.”
Cantania emphasized that he cares a lot for Sumnicht’s family. “It’s been an ordeal, a prolonged investigation, but we all have a lot of faith.”
Cantania plans to continue to move toward the next steps in the investigation.
A life remembered
Sumnicht, whose family lives in Hobart, near Green Bay, was a resident of Hutchison Hall, where she had “developed some deep friendships,” Knudson said in an interview with the Racquet in March 2010.
Sumnicht was in her junior year at UW-La Crosse as a communication studies major focusing on sports broadcasting.
Knudson said Sumnicht’s friends and family described her as “compassionate, fun, loving and loyal,” and said she also loved animals and was a big Brett Favre fan, whom she admired because of his passion for football, according to her obituary.
Her sister Johanna Sumnicht, with whom Julia shared a deep friendship, was a sophomore at UW-L. Johanna is now planning on studying nursing at Belin College in Green bay.


Sumnicht was born on August 13, 1988 and “was b eautiful inside and out from the day she was born,” said her mother, Marie Sumnicht.
In addition to Johanna and her parents Dan and Marie, Julia had two other siblings, Stephan and Andrew. “She had a very special and unique relationship with each one of them,” said Marie.
Julia will be remembered by many as the ‘youthful one’ because of her zeal for life, said those who knew her.
Where optimism lies
More than a year later the family of Sumnicht questions the event that changed their lives so drastically and, finally, those questions may be answered. With the help of the private investigator, the Sumnicht family has been able to piece some things together. “It was Miami, we knew there were other issues going on that the police had to deal with. Their hands were full. Time passed and our case became another number in the pile,” said Marie, “Chris [Catania] has been fantastic from day one. We were finally able to talk to someone emotionally and get answers. He confirmed a lot of the things we thought.”
“This was new territory for us. We didn’t know how things worked. In our hearts we knew she was wronged, but we just didn’t know what to do,” said Marie.
As the investigation continues, the Sumnicht family will forever be indebted to Cantania for his advancements in their daughter’s case. “He’s made connections with people and filled so many gaps,” said Marie, “We’re very optimistic and, honestly, a few months ago I probably wouldn’t have said that.”
The Sumnicht family understands and appreciates the support system of family and friends. “It’s overwhelming,” said Johanna, “I didn’t know the things I would feel, but I’ve found encouragement. This affects our everyday lives.” With hope that Sumnicht will finally receive justice, Johanna’s embodies the uttermost respect for her sister. “Julia always had my back. She was always there for me. Now I have hers more than ever.”
Only in the primary stages of the investigating, Marie believes that the research, along with Itzler’s statements, witnesses and police speculations a solid case will emerge and, eventually, a trial. “It’s a waiting game. It’s like walking on a tightrope, we want everything to go right.”
More than anything the Sumnicht family wants justice to be served to Julia. “We want the wrong to be righted, for the person who did this to be accountable for their evil and for all the harm they caused to others like Julia to be gone,” said Marie, “How do you stop drugs? Fortunately, people rarely die but it happens. I don’t care where you are, Miami or Luxemburg, girls are getting drugs dropped in their drinks all the time.” Marie emphasized that it’s not a game, though many think it is. “Ultimately, people hear drinks and assume it’s alcohol,” said UW-L Dean of Students Paula Knudson, “When you drink [alcohol] your level of fear de-escalates and you feel more comfortable with your surroundings.”
According to multiple websites small doses of GHB is dangerous enough. Sumnicht was given three doses, according to the medical examiner department. “The most heart-wrenching thing is that no traces of alcohol were found in her blood stream,” said Marie, “She was drinking water or soda or something, but she knew something wasn’t right.” Cantania believes that Sumnicht was conscientious of her surroundings.
“These people think, ‘Oh, I’m just going to knock this girl out and sleep with her,’ but that’s not right,” said Marie, “This past summer I looked up GHB on the internet. All over, every web site said can be fatal, can cause death, the same thing.”
According to the report, the cause of her death was GHB toxicity. Commonly known as the date-rape drug, GHB can cause dizziness, nausea, vomiting, confusion, seizures, respiratory depression and intense drowsiness.
“It’s important we communicate this matter from an educational standpoint,” said Knudson, “This could happen to anyone.”
The Sumnicht family hopes that students recognize this as a learning opportunity. “You always hear stories about this,” said Marie, “But it usually doesn’t hit home.”
From one student to another, if you knew Julia or if you didn’t, I encourage you all to educate yourselves, to be aware and to understand the effects that drugs can have on your body and your life. Let us learn from this unfortunate tragedy.

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