Teen victim might have been saved, source says

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Teen victim might have been saved, source says

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As a rape and murder case rattles the nation, parents yesterday wait outside an elementary school in Seoul to escort their children back home safely. [YONHAP]


The 13-year-old raped and murdered in Busan was still alive when police took the case public without proper strategy and preparation, the JoongAng Ilbo learned yesterday - and their missteps may have provided a motive for her killing.

An autopsy performed at the Institute of Forensic Medicine at Pusan National University showed that Lee Yu-ri probably died between March 2 and March 4, meaning that she was alive for more than a week after she was reported missing on Feb. 24 - and may have still been alive when police missed a chance to arrest the man now charged with her death.

And according to a prosecution source, “If the police had handled this case properly, the victim might have been saved.”

Police initially believed Lee was a runaway. They waited a day before beginning their search, and three before taking the case public and distributing the missing girl’s photos nationwide.

On March 1, Kim Kil-tae - who had phoned police on Feb. 25 to proclaim his innocence - was identified as the primary suspect and police began their search for him. Lee’s body was found in a water tank near her home five days later.

Exactly how long she had lain there is still being determined, but the prosecution source said the autopsy established the approximate time of death from her body temperature and an examination of her eyeballs.

The outcome of additional tests that use organs to determine the time of death will be available as early as today.

“When we put the two outcomes together, we will be able to pin down a date,” the source said.

But while the source said the forensic institute provided its findings to the Busan District Prosecutors’ Office and Busan Police, police said yesterday only that the doctor who performed the autopsy had been unable to determine an accurate time of death. The police said more information would be available next week.

“They are probably afraid of being criticized for their bungling,” the source said.

Prosecutors believe that Kim, who imprisoned and raped another victim for 10 days in 2001, probably kept Lee locked up and sexually assaulted her for days. Kim served eight years in prison for the 2001 assault.

Busan police initially treated Lee’s disappearance as a simple runaway case and did not open an investigation immediately, although foreign footprints were found at her home.

The search began the next day. About 4,500 policemen hunted for Lee in the neighborhood, and on Feb. 27 police distributed leaflets containing her picture nationwide in order to widen their search.

Other leaflets bearing photos of Kim, by then identified as a strong suspect, were publicly released on March 2.

As police continued their search for both Lee and Kim, detectives found a man sleeping in an empty house just 20 meters from Lee’s home on March 3. Police did not arrest the man, who is now believed to be Kim.

The incident falls within the window of time in which the murder may have been committed.

“When the police make an investigation public and openly pursue a suspect, it’s like a SWAT team going in during an anti-terrorist operation,” said Lee Soo-jung, a criminal psychology professor at Kyonggi University.

“But before you send out a SWAT team, you have consult with psychological experts to assess the suspect’s possible reactions and take steps to protect the victim.”

While Kim has a history of sexual assaults, he had never been charged with murder, the professor pointed out.

“In the past, Kim kept his female victim for days,” Lee said. “Before the police went public about the investigation this time, they should have meticulously planned for the victim’s safety.”

The police, however, said taking the case public was standard procedure after their search yielded nothing.

Busan police continued to interrogate Kim yesterday. He has reportedly persistently denied the accusations, even after police told him that his DNA had been found on Lee’s body.

Lee’s rape and murder has prompted politicians to urge the government to carry out executions of convicted rapists who have been sentenced to capital punishment.

“Death-row inmates who commit inhumane crimes such as serial murders and brutal sex crimes must be swiftly executed,” said Ahn Sang-soo, the Grand National Party’s floor leader, adding that the government and the ruling party will discuss the matter “in order to eradicate heinous child sex crimes.”

The last execution of death-row inmates was 12 years ago, when 57 were put to death at the end of the Kim Young-sam administration.


By Jeon Jin-bae, Park Sung-woo [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
Related Korean Article

부검 결과 2~4일 사망 추정 … 경찰의 김길태 첫 검거실패 때와 겹쳐부검 결과 2~4일 사망 추정 … 경찰의 김길태 첫 검거실패 때와 겹쳐


부산의 여중생 이모(13)양이 김길태(33)에게 납치된 뒤에도 일주일가량은 살아 있었던 것으로 보인다는 부검 결과가 나왔다.

11일 검찰에 따르면 이양의 시신을 부검했던 부산대 법의학연구소가 “이양의 사망시점은 지난 2~4일로 추정된다”고 부산지검과 경찰에 통보했다.

지난달 24일 실종된 뒤 7~9일 후 살해된 것 같다는 것이다. 이에 따라 경찰의 허술한 초기 수사를 지적하는 비난 여론이 불거질 것으로 보인다. 특히 경찰의 김길태 검거작전이 실패한 지난 3일 새벽 5시 이후 이양이 살해된 것으로 조사될 경우 파장이 예상된다.

검찰의 한 관계자는 이날 “이양에 대한 부산대 법의학연구소의 부검에서는 체온과 안구를 통해 사망시간을 측정하는 방법이 사용됐다”며 “정확한 사망시점을 알기 위해 정밀검사도 같이 실시했었다”고 밝혔다. 장기의 일부를 적출해 검사하는 정밀검사의 결과는 이르면 12일 나올 것으로 예상된다. 이 관계자는 “두 차례의 검사 결과를 종합해 분석하면 사망 날짜 정도는 특정할 수 있을 것으로 예상된다”고 설명했다.
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