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Sunday, July 21, 2024

Decades-old Korean-American cold case progresses with cigarette butts and fingerprints

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[Decades-old mystery: 3]

The decades-old unsolved murder of Bo Im Ko, who was 56 at the time of her death, has finally seen a breakthrough thanks to six cigarette butts and fingerprints.

At the time, San Diego police recovered six cigarette butts from the car’s dashboard ashtray and two clear fingerprints from the rearview mirror, all belonging to the suspect, Dong Ho Won (born 1946).

Recently, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office (SDCDA) confirmed a match between fingerprints recovered from the murder scene and those of the suspect, Won, leading to the reopening of the investigation.


Fingerprints found on the rearview mirror of Bo Im Ko’s car [SDCDA]

Anthony Johnson, an investigator with SDCDA’s cold case unit, explained that a fingerprint examiner found a match with Ko’s case during a routine check. He added that recent advancements in fingerprint recognition algorithms enable them to recheck hundreds of prints quickly, solving 8 to 10 cold cases this year.

[Bo Im Ko vanished after bank withdrawal, found murdered 2 days later]

[Breakthrough in 1992 Korean-American cold case: suspect identified after 32 years]

[Execution-style murder of Bo Im Ko: Money not the motive, reveals investigation]

According to Johnson, there are approximately 2,000 unsolved cases in San Diego County, with about half of the fingerprint-matched cases leading to the actual perpetrator.

Additionally, three .25 caliber bullets found at the scene matched those used in a “Sundance A-25” small semi-automatic pistol owned by Won.


Cigarette butts found on the car’s dashboard ashtray [SDCDA]
DNA from the cigarette butts is currently being tested. While it has been confirmed that the suspect is a Korean man, further information is pending.

Won, an immigrant from South Korea, had his fingerprints on file with immigration authorities. He was also arrested in Los Angeles in 1989 on domestic violence charges, making the fingerprint match straightforward, according to Johnson.

Local police records indicate that Won lived in Flint, Michigan, in 2003. He had reported Tammy Won (born 1980) and David Kim (born 1941) to the Flint Township Police Department. The Korea Daily called the number listed in the police report, but it could not be connected.

Won reportedly died of liver cancer in 2003. He had moved from Los Angeles to Michigan to live with his son and was believed to have worked in the paint industry, Johnson said.

The relationship between the victim, Ko, and the suspect, Won, remains unclear.

Prosecutors are also exploring the possibility of a hired killing motivated by revenge or a romantic entanglement.


Three .25 caliber cartridge casings found in the car [SDCDA]

According to a PowerPoint file released by SDCDA to the Korea Daily, the prosecution is also focusing on Ko’s relationships with various men as a potential motive for her murder.

In addition to Won, five other individuals connected to Ko are also being looked into. These include her ex-husband Seung Il Kim (known in English as Soy Kim), whom Ko divorced in Korea but still lived together in the United States. Others include Kim’s first wife In Sun Kim; Kim’s girlfriend Tae He Kim; his close friend Pil Hoon Oh; and Oh’s brother Paul Oh. The SDCDA’s described Pil Hoon Oh as “Soy’s best friend,” “sleeping with Bo (Im) Ko,” and “hitting on Tae (He) Kim.”

Records show that Soy Kim and In Sun Kim are deceased, Tae He Kim’s whereabouts are unknown, and the Oh brothers are believed to be living in Southern California.

BY JUNGWON SEO, SUAH JANG [jang.suah@koreadaily.com]