Bludgeoning of lottery seller solved after 7 years
In January 2004, police discovered a female lottery ticket seller bludgeoned to death in her store in Wongok-dong, Ansan, but there were few clues to work on. No weapon was found, and there was no CCTV footage from the store. They did find a video game console and two controllers installed in the store and dusted them for fingerprints. A partial print was found, possibly from the murderer, but it wasn’t enough to identify a suspect.
Over the years, 45 detectives worked on the case in vain. No witnesses ever came forward.
Then Yoo Dong-hyun, a detective who was in charge for the case for three years, was transferred from the Ansan precinct to the Gyeonggi Provincial Police Agency in September 2010.
“The key to solving the case,” Yoo told the JoongAng Ilbo, “was restoration of the fingerprints we secured in 2004.”
In order to verify a fingerprint, at least 13 different characteristics must be identified, Yoo said. “But with the fingerprint we had only had a few. But I believed we would eventually verify it because tools for crime investigation were getting better.”
The team discovered that an improved fingerprint search software program had been adopted by the National Police Agency in Seoul since 2008 and asked to use it. “We’ve identified a prime suspect after comparing about three hundred similar fingerprints,” Yoo said. The identification was made earlier this month and the suspect tracked down to China.
The suspect is a 47-year-old ethnic Korean man surnamed Cho, who had lived in Ansan in 2004. Cho was deported a month after the murder in Ansan for not having a visa and for using a false passport. In 2010, Cho was convicted of robbery and put in jail.
“We wanted to bring Cho back to Korea, but it actually was hard to do that because Cho is Chinese and he was already in prison,” Kim Byeong-rok, an investigator at the Gyeonggi Police Agency, said. “But we wanted Cho to pay for his sin, so we began to persuade Chinese public security authorities to conduct a joint investigation of the case.”
The police ran the investigation in China from Dec. 19 to 24 and finally extracted a confession from Cho last Sunday. “I murdered her in a fit of anger because she refused to lend money,” Cho said during a questioning, according to police. Cho admitted to having prepared a weapon in advance to kill her. Chinese public security authorities have promised to put Cho on trial, and he is expected to receive an additional prison term.
By Yoo Gil-yong [email@example.com]