Extradition approved in Burger King murder case

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Extradition approved in Burger King murder case


A U.S. federal court granted the extradition request by prosecutors in Seoul for the chief suspect in the random 1997 killing of a Korean university student in an Itaewon restaurant, raising expectations that the suspect’s forced return to the country could untangle a murder case left unsolved for 15 years.

The Ministry of Justice said Tuesday that a federal court in Los Angeles accepted the request for the extradition of Arthur Patterson, a 33-year-old prime suspect now held in custody awaiting the extradition process.

The alleged murderer immediately appealed the decision and will have a court hearing to determine whether he will be handed over to legal authorities in Seoul.

It remains to be seen when the alleged killer will be expatriated to stand trial in a courtroom here as court hearings on the matter of expatriation could take a number of years.

Arthur Patterson, who was 18 at a time of the murder and the son of a U.S. Forces Korea civilian employee, is accused of fatally stabbing a 23-year-old college student named Cho Jung-pil, on April 3, 1997, in a bathroom of a Burger King in Itaewon, which is now the location of a coffee shop on the second floor and a first floor business under renovation.

There was another prime suspect at the time, 18-year-old Korean-American Edward Lee, who was studying in Seoul.

The victim was apparently a stranger to the two men and was murdered randomly. Both said the other had done the stabbing. Lee was tried and convicted for the murder but acquitted by the Supreme Court in 1998 due to lack of evidence.

Patterson was prosecuted and convicted of possession of a deadly weapon and sentenced to 18 months in prison but was released on a special pardon in August 1998. In 1999, Patterson left Korea, taking advantage of a prosecution failure to extend a ban on him leaving the country.

It was following the success of the 2009 film “The Case of the Itaewon Homicide,” which prompted public outcry for punishment for the crime suspect, along with complaints from Cho’s family, that the Ministry of Justice reopened the case and requested Patterson’s extradition in 2010.

Patterson, who had been working as a trainer at a fitness club in Los Angeles, was arrested in California in May of last year following the Justice Ministry’s request for his extradition.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office also indicted Patterson on charges of murder in December last year.

The statue of limitations for the case was set to expire in April of 2012, 15 years after the murder, so the prosecutors took action to indict Patterson before the date came.

At the time of the indictment, prosecutors cited new evidence which they claimed could prove Patterson was actually the murderer, adding that Patterson allegedly stabbed Cho nine times including the neck and the chest.

Prosecutors also said bloodstain pattern analysis technology that was not available for the initial investigation had been used to analyze blood patterns at the scene of the crime. In addition, prosecutors gathered additional testimony implicating Patterson, including his alleged admission of the murder to a friend.

“We assess that hard evidence [to prove Patterson’s murder charge] presented by prosecutors here was mostly accepted by a Los Angeles federal court for approval,” said Cho Sang-joon, director at the international criminal affairs division of the Justice Ministry.

“I hope the extradition process will smoothly proceed so Patterson will stand trial here to pay for what he did that day,” said Lee Bok-su, the victim’s mother.

By Lee Dong-hyun, Kang Jin-kyu [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]
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