Mystery of girl’s time of death grows

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Mystery of girl’s time of death grows

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The mystery surrounding the time of death of a Busan girl grew yesterday after local police insisted that it is impossible at this point to pinpoint when the 13-year-old was killed, contradicting an earlier finding leaked by prosecutors that the killer had kept her alive for a week.

The JoongAng Ilbo reported Friday, based on a prosecution source, that Lee Yu-ri was alive for about a week after her alleged abduction by the primary suspect Kim Kil-tae.

Busan police in charge of the investigation denied that yesterday.

However, prosecutors reiterated yesterday that the initial autopsy of the girl, performed on Sunday, established her time of death fell sometime between March 2 and 4. “In order to confirm the result, another examination using internal organs is under way,” a prosecution source said.

Kim yesterday made a brief appearance in the courtroom of the Busan District Court yesterday for a warrant hearing before judge Han Gyeong-
geun. Kim was accompanied by a state-appointed lawyer.

Kim was asked by the judge about allegations that he kidnapped, raped and killed Lee. The judge also asked him about a separate rape that took place in January. Kim refused to answer the judge’s question about the Lee case, saying, “I have nothing to say.” He also said he had been too drunk to remember the January case.

The hearing only lasted about 10 minutes. The judge issued a detention warrant yesterday evening.

The autopsy result, including the time of death, had been told to the investigators present at the autopsy and then later to the leadership of the prosecution and police, prosecution authorities said.

“The body was covered with lime and placed inside a water tank. It’s a hard case to determine the exact time of death, but it is extremely rare that an initial autopsy result is different from a final determination,” said an investigator.

The Busan police, however, strongly denied the finding.

Lee went missing on Feb. 24 and the police made public the probe on Feb. 27. The open pursuit of Kim began on March 2 and her body was found on March 6.

“We have contacted the Institute of Forensic Medicine at Pusan National University [which performed the initial autopsy] and the National Institute of Scientific Investigation, and they said the victim’s time of death is still undetermined and no autopsy outcome had been disclosed to investigative authorities,” Kim Hee-ung, chief of the Sasang Police Precinct in Busan, said in a media briefing yesterday.

Asked if he was aware of the time of death determined by the initial autopsy as reported in the media, Kim said, “I was not there, and I received no briefing.”

Police also said they found a bowl filled with lime on Feb. 26 near the site where the body was dumped, saying that the slaying probably took place before then.

Pusan National University’s forensics lab also said it did not submit an official written report about the time of death to the investigative authorities.

“We have to continue our examination because this is a tough case to establish the time of death,” the institute said in a press release.

“Because the body was in the water tank, it is hard to establish the time of death based on decomposition,” said Seo Joong-seok, head of the department of forensic medicine at the National Institute of Scientific Investigation.


By Jeon Jin-bae, Kim Sang-jin [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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