Former contestant on ‘America’s Next Top Model’ killed

Associated Press

Charlotte, N.C. — She was a Serbian-born model and self-described “wild-child” who said she began walking runways in her new North Carolina hometown at age 12.

But a blossoming career in modeling for Mirjana Puhar, who reached national attention on “America’s Next Top Model,” ended tragically when police found her body and two others in a house in Charlotte this week.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police say 19-year-old Emmanuel Jesus Rangel-Hernandez is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of the 19-year-old Puhar and two other victims. Authorities have said the killings were drug-related, but have not said how the three were killed.

The Charlotte Observer reported on Puhar’s emerging career in a story published in 2014. She told the newspaper that her family fled Serbia after the Kosovo War and moved to North Carolina a decade later.

Puhar said she began modeling at age 12 and did runway shows at Charlotte Fashion Week. She said she had a troubled adolescence and eventually quit school.

“I was a wild child,” she said. “I went out, had fun, partied, whatever - I didn’t really have the best influences around me.”

After dropping out of high school, Puhar decided to obtain her GED in 2013. Shortly after that, she was cast on “America’s Next Top Model,” a reality show on The CW network that pits aspiring models against each other.

In an interview with CW affiliate WCCB in Charlotte, Puhar described her experience on the show, including meeting co-producer and model Tyra Banks.

“She’s amazing. She’s definitely a great mentor,” Puhar said.

Puhar reached the 10th episode of the current season of the show before she was eliminated from the competition.

Banks and co-producer Ken Mok issued a statement mourning Puhar’s death.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the tragic news about Mirjana Puhar. She was a vivacious and promising young woman. Our hearts and prayers go out to her loved ones,” the statement said.

Phone numbers for people believed to be Puhar’s parents were disconnected and email addresses were no longer active.

Rangel-Hernandez remained in the county jail awaiting a court appearance scheduled for Thursday. Jail records didn’t indicate whether he had an attorney to comment on the charges.