Dori Ziedenweber had a comic sense and a deep voice. She loved to sing Melissa Etheridge songs, and friends urged her to try out for American Idol.
She never made it to the audition.
The mother of two was found in a Chatsworth freezer on one of the hottest days of the season.
Her friends will gather at 6:30 p.m. for a memorial service at Rose Memorial Funeral Home and Crematory in Simi Valley Thursday to remember an artistic, talented, giving young woman.
Dori's body was found two weeks ago in a freezer in a ramshackle house on the 10800 block of Old Santa Susana Pass Road in Chatsworth where she had been renting a room for two weeks.
A 70-year-old man, who called 9-1-1 to report Doris “Dori” Ziedenweber’s death, was arrested, but released 48 hours later because of insufficient evidence in what police are still calling a homicide.
LAPD Devonshire Division Captain Kris Pitcher said he is waiting for a toxicology report from the coroner’s office to reveal the cause of death.
[Update: Chief Coroner Craig R. Harvey says: "The cause of death is currently deferred. It may be 6 to 8 weeks before this case is closed. No report will be released until the case is officially closed by the Coroner."]
Although police sources told Patch that Ziedenweber was found in a freezer, Pitcher would neither confirm nor deny the report. He did say, however, that her body showed defensive wounds.
Friends recalled Ziedenweber as outgoing, artistic, talented, and as someone who could uplift anyone’s spirits.
Hannah Mobek, 34, and Ziedenweber, 32, first met at Apollo High School in Simi Valley.
Mobek told Patch that Ziedenweber loved karaoke.
“She had a deep voice and loved to sing Melissa Etheridge songs and the song ‘Black Velvet’,” Mobek said. “She would sing to her friends to cheer them up. She’d crack jokes. She missed her true calling of being a comedian. When her friends were going through a hard time, she’d get them out of their bad moods and cheer them up.”
The 5-foot 9-inch, 115-pound Ziedenweber was a mother. Her daughter, Faith, will turn 10 next Tuesday. Her son Mason is two.
She worked at different jobs throughout her life, but most recently for the movie industry with Mason’s father, Mobek said.
“She’d go to a neighborhood and knock on doors to get signatures of the people on a form to film in their neighborhood,” Mobek said. “With her friendly and outgoing personality she was good at it.”
Mobek said she was shy growing up, but Ziedenweber taught her how to open up and express herself.
“She was a good friend, well loved and great with kids,” Mobek said. "When she watched my children, she made goofy faces and got them to laugh – hysterically.”
And Ziedenweber had a talent for handiwork. She made wedding veils for her friends.
“We were working on starting a business and a website. Dori made me a veil for my wedding. I had a fancy dress, but I didn’t need it because the veil was so beautiful,” Mobek said.
Nicole Crawford, 31, of Simi Valley, is heartbroken about her best friend’s death. Crawford said she thought of Ziedenweber as her sister.
They met the summer before junior high at a birthday party. Then, when school started, Crawford spotted Ziedenweber in the counseling office.
“We started talking and have been best friends since,” said Crawford, a mother of two. “We danced together on the high school team and she slept over my house and I slept over hers. I called her mom, ‘Mom’ and she called my mom, ‘Mom’.”
Crawford said that Ziedenweber could uplift anyone’s spirits.
“I found out my ex cheated on me, and I was hysterical. But she made me laugh so hard I (wet) my pants. Her level of humor was phenomenal,” Crawford said. “She was a good friend, and if she could be there for you, she was.”
Crawford said Ziedenweber, the youngest of four siblings, had a tremendous voice and convinced her to try out for American Idol. Ziedenweber never made it to the audition.
“Dori had a quality, if cultivated, that would have resulted in a better (life), Crawford said. “With the right direction, at the right age, her life could have been different. She was a good mother when she could to the best of her abilities.
“She was more awesome than she ever knew. I wish she would have known her own worth and had 100 percent confidence in herself,” Crawford said. “She was energetic and always on it. I wouldn’t call her lazy. She had a ‘busy’ personality.”
Crawford said if Ziedenweber was a homicide victim she knows her friend would have fought tooth-and-nail against her attacker.
“She would never leave her kids permanently without a fight. I can visualize her fighting for her life,” she said. “I don’t know what’s worse; being killed or stuck in a freezer. It’s horrifying either way.”
Ziedenweber had other battles, too. She had a history of dabbling in drugs and was physically abused later in life.
She lost custody of her daughter and then lost a friend, Travis, to an overdose.
Mobek said she watched her friend spiral down into a world of pain from which she apparently never recovered.
Mobek said she and Ziedenweber spoke about going to rehab, but Ziedenweber was afraid it would reflect badly on her and jeopardize regaining custody of her daughter.
Travis' mother, Rose Denison, knew Ziedenweber through her son. The two were friends since junior high.
“They both had a giving and loving side to them,” Denison wrote in an email to Patch.
Denison said the two partied on Jan. 3, and 4, 2011.
"Travis said he was tired and wanted to go to bed,” Denison wrote. “He never woke up."
"He died early around 1 a.m. on Jan. 5, 2011, of an overdose. I felt something was wrong all day Tuesday. I couldn't get a hold of him. We talked daily,” she wrote.
Denison said she never blamed Ziedenweber, because no one forced Travis to abuse drugs. Denison didn't, however, approve of the relationship.
“I told Dori this and hoped she would get her life back on track and use Travis' death as a wake-up call,” Denison wrote. "Addiction killed Travis, not Dori. This, Dori's death, has set me back to square one.
"I thought I had come to terms with Travis, but now I must grieve them both.”
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