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6 ‘Soldiers of Christ’ Korean Americans arrested for a Korean woman’s death

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Six Korean Americans have been arrested on charges of felony murder, false imprisonment, tampering with evidence, and concealing the death, following the discovery of a Korean woman’s body in the trunk of a car.

The suspects claim to belong to the same religious organization, and the investigation into the deaths could expand to include cults, as the dead woman was allegedly beaten and starved in confinement.

[Gwinnett Police investigating religious link in Korean woman’s murder]

The arrested individuals include Eric Hyun (26), Gawon Lee (26), Joonho Lee (26), Joonhyun Lee (22), Hyunji Lee (25), and Junyeong Lee (15) whose mug shot is not disclosed as he is a minor. Except for Gawon Lee, all five are U.S. citizenship holders. Among them, Joonho Lee, Joonhyun Lee and Junyeong Lee are brothers, and Hyunji Lee is the girlfriend of one of them, police said.

On September 14, Gwinnett County police held a press conference to announce the arrest of all six individuals implicated in the crime.

On September 12 at 10:50 p.m., police received a report of a body in the trunk of a silver Jaguar parked outside Jeju, a popular Korean-style spa in Gwinnett County, Georgia. It should be noted that the spa is not implicated in the case.

Police officers photograph the trunk of a car where a woman’s body was discovered. [Screen capture from FOX5 TV]

The car was driven by Eric Hyun. After parking the vehicle, Hyun contacted his family to pick him up and take him to the hospital. Hyun was injured for reasons unrelated to this incident. While at the hospital, Hyun asked the family member to retrieve his “personal item” in his car.

When the family went to check on the car, they smelled a strange odor coming from the trunk, opened it, found the body, and called the police. An investigation was subsequently launched by Homicide detectives, Crime Scene investigators, and the Medical Examiner’s Office.

The victim, a Korean woman believed to be in her mid-20s to 30s, showed multiple signs of assault. The Medical Examiner’s Office suggest the cause of death was malnutrition, as she weighed a mere 70 pounds at the time of discovery.

A basement where the Korean victim was abused and malnourished. [Provided by the Gwinnett County Government Police Department]

“The victim weighed only 70 pounds when she was found,” said Gwinnett Police Public Information Officer Juan Madiedo. “We found the victim’s blood on the floor of the basement where the crime was committed, and there were traumatic injuries that appeared to be signs of assault.”

Investigations suggest that the victim’s assault and subsequent death took place in the basement of the house where Lee brothers reside. According to the police, the owner of the house is Lee brothers’ farther, but their parents were not involved in this crime. The group is believed to have attempted to dispose of the body using the car post the victim’s demise.

A motive for the crime has not yet been released, but police are investigating possible religious ties.  According to the police, the suspects call themselves “Soldiers of Christ.”

The victim, a South Korean citizen, had traveled to the U.S. this summer to join a religious group named the Soldiers of Christ. All her immediate family members live in South Korea, and death notifications have not yet been made to them. At this time, the police have no information about the religious organization.

BY SUAH JANG, JUNHAN PARK  [jang.suah@koreadailyny.com, park.junhan@koreadaily.com]