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

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[Decades-old mystery: 2]

After 32 years, the cold case involving the murder of Bo Im Ko, who was 56 at the time, has been reopened, and the prosecution has revealed previously undisclosed gruesome crime scene evidence.

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office (SDCDA) has released an 87-page PowerPoint file to the Korea Daily, detailing the circumstances and investigation records of the case.

According to the documents, Dong Ho Won (English name Bob), identified as a prime suspect, was born on October 16, 1946, making him 46 years old at the time of the 1992 incident, 10 years younger than Ko.


Bundles of cash found in Bo Im Ko’s car trunk


The autopsy report from the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office included in the documents states that Ko died from “gunshot wounds to the head and neck,” categorizing the case as a “homicide.”

The autopsy revealed gunshot wounds on both the right and left occipital regions of Ko’s head. Both wounds were caused by shots fired from behind, resulting in perforation of the skull and brain damage. Fragments of the bullets, including deformed lead cores and copper jackets, were found on the lower surface of the brain.

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

[Decades-old mystery: Ko vanished after bank withdrawal, found murdered 2 days later]

The report also noted that the gun was fired at close range, causing the skin and subcutaneous tissue to tear and rupture due to the gas pressure from the gunshot. This suggests that the perpetrator shot Ko at a very close distance. Additionally, a perforating wound on her right arm is believed to have occurred while she was trying to defend herself from the attack.

According to the SDCDA, three .25 caliber bullets found at the scene matched those used in a “Sundance A-25” small semi-automatic pistol owned by the suspect, Won. He had purchased the gun in Mission Viejo in 1991, and the murder took place the following year.

Although a large sum of money was involved, it was not identified as the motive for the killing. On the day Ko went missing, she withdrew approximately $40,000 from a bank in Cerritos and disappeared shortly afterward.

Initial investigations presumed a robbery, but the cash was found in the trunk of her car. The breakdown included $500 in a brown paper bag, bundles of $10,000 and $2,860 in a plastic bag, and $28,000 wrapped in cloth. An additional $159 was found in a wallet on the front seat of the car where Ko’s body was discovered.

Additionally, two bundles of 20 hundred-dollar bills and 36 fifty-dollar bills were found in Ko’s socks, and two bundles of $2,000 in the left front pocket of her pants, indicating she was carrying $9,815 in cash when she died.

The investigation records also include an interview with a witness who lived in an apartment opposite the Point Loma Plaza mall parking lot, where Ko’s body was found.

Mary Martha Rice, who walks her dog daily between 5 and 6 p.m., noticed Ko’s car parked in the empty back side of mall’s parking lot around 6:05 p.m. on the day of the incident. Rice reported seeing two people, a man and a woman, talking inside the car, when she was passing by the right rear side of the car.

Direction of bullet exit wounds in Ko’s head.

The woman was sitting in the middle front seat, facing the driver. She moved her body and looked around, but didn’t appeared to be either scared or alarmed, suggesting that she was having a normal conversation. Thirty minutes later, Rice heard two gunshots from her apartment.

Based on the witness’s statement and other evidence, it appears that Ko was killed on the day she disappeared. The prosecution suspects that Won drove Ko from Cerritos to San Diego. The prosecution added that Won’s fingerprints were found on the rearview mirror, and the car seat was adjusted to a height inconsistent with Ko’s body type, suggesting Won as a prime suspect.

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