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

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[Decades-old mystery: 1]

On March 26, 1992, Bo Im Ko, 56, followed her usual routine.

Operating the “Donut & Deli” business along with a check-cashing service in Gardena, Ko regularly visited the bank on Thursdays and Fridays to withdraw cash for her customers. Each withdrawal typically ranged from $10,000 to $40,000.

That day, she withdrew $40,000 from the First Global Bank in her Cerritos neighborhood. However, Ko vanished without a trace after loading the money into her vehicle.

Bo Im Ko’s body found on her car’s passenger seat, covered with newspapers, in a shopping mall parking lot in San Diego [SDCDA]
When Ko failed to return home, her ex-husband, who was living with her at the time, reported her missing.

Just two days later, on March 28, at around 4:20 PM, Ko’s lifeless body was discovered 120 miles away from her last known location in San Diego.

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

Her 1978 Oldsmobile 98 was found parked behind the Point Loma Plaza Mall in San Diego. Inside the car, Ko was found brutally murdered, wrapped in newspapers, with three gunshot wounds to her head and neck, and her body shoved under the passenger seat.

According to the police at the time, a Laundromat employee at the shopping mall had reported the suspicious vehicle, which had been parked in the same spot for two days.

Upon investigation, police confirmed that the car was listed as a wanted vehicle, and the deceased woman was identified as Bo Im Ko.

Both police and media at the time leaned towards the likelihood of a robbery and abduction.

According to the San Diego Police Department, just eight months prior, in July 1991, three Hispanic robbers had stormed Ko’s business, taking two employees and four customers hostage. They waited for 90 minutes until Ko arrived with the check-cashing funds, ultimately robbing her of $100,000.

At the time, the police suspected that the robbers had knowledge of Ko’s bank transactions and her vehicle, indicating a premeditated crime. Additionally, there was speculation that the suspects might have fled to Mexico, as Ko’s body was found in San Diego.

Bo Im Ko leaving a bank in her Cerritos neighborhood after withdrawing $40,000 [SDCDA]
Thus, the bereaved family was almost certain it was a robbery-related crime. “They were the ones who robbed the store,” they said in an interview with the Korea Daily at the time. They added that they should have relocated the business earlier.

The family described Ko as a kind and gentle person, a devout Christian who had been sending $100 monthly donations to support missionary work in Kenya for six years.

At the time, the police were unable to make any progress in the investigation. To address the possibility of the suspects fleeing to a different state, the police created and broadcast video materials in collaboration with major TV stations. However, no significant leads emerged for over a month, and the case seemed to fade into obscurity.

However, a new suspect has recently been identified by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office (SDCDA), bringing Ko’s case back into the spotlight.

The new suspect, Dong Ho Won, is a Korean-American man, which starkly contrasts with the initial assumption of Hispanic robbers. Furthermore, the motive behind the murder appears not to be money, challenging the original narrative and bringing the investigation back to square one.

BY SUAH JANG, YOUNGNAM KIM [jang.suah@koreadaily.com]