New development in 12-year-old Itaewon killing
The Justice Ministry has taken the initial step in relaunching an investigation into a 12-year-old homicide case known as the “Itaewon killing” by requesting extradition of an American who was pardoned from prison 10 years ago.
The ministry said on Tuesday that it has requested the Foreign Ministry to deliver its request to extradite Arthur Patterson, the son of a U.S. solider, to its U.S. counterpart. The Justice Ministry hopes U.S. authorities will arrest the 31-year-old man once they receive the documents.
Patterson is one of two prime suspects in the stabbing death of a Korean Hongik University student, apparently a random stranger, in the restroom of a hamburger chain restaurant in Itaewon, central Seoul, in 1997.
The other suspect, Edward Lee, is a Korean-American. The Supreme Court acquitted him in 1998, citing “insufficient evidence.”
Patterson was indicted for carrying a weapon and was sentenced to a prison term. He was released on a special pardon in August 1998. However, he was not indicted for murder.
Although surviving families of the victim sued Patterson, accusing him of murder three months later, he left the country the next year, taking advantage of the prosecution’s failure to extend the period that his departure was prohibited. The new extradition request came after prosecutors here decided to restart the probe.
Should Patterson be returned, it could take up to a year for the three rounds of trials to run their course.
“Even if Patterson asks U.S. authorities to protect him, a U.S. court may reject his request if he is deemed to have perpetuated the crime,” said a Justice Ministry spokesman.
The two suspects were at the murder scene and have accused each other of the slaying. In a recent interview on a Korean TV show, Patterson claimed his friend “is definitely the killer and I saw it.”
Lee said in a separate interview with a local newspaper he will “proactively cooperate with the police” if the probe is relaunched, arguing Patterson committed the murder.
The story of the puzzling case was made into a movie three months ago, placing the issue in the limelight again. That only three years are left before the 15-year statute of limitations on the case expires also spurred Korean prosecutors to resume the probe.
By Seo Ji-eun [firstname.lastname@example.org]