Authorities find suspect in Gangnam murder case

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Authorities find suspect in Gangnam murder case

Authorities investigating the death late last month of an 88-year-old woman have apprehended a key suspect in the case and have requested a pre-trial detention warrant.

The man, named Jeong, 60, has denied allegations that he killed the elderly homeowner, surnamed Ham, who was found dead on Feb. 25 in her two-story residence in Gangnam District, southern Seoul.

According to the Suseo Police Precinct, investigators found the suspect’s DNA on the shoestring they determined was used to tie Han’s hands.

Authorities collected DNA from a list of people who likely had contact with Ham, such as her tenants and neighbors, in order to narrow down key suspects.

“We arrested Jeong as soon as we heard from the National Forensic Service on Monday that his DNA matched with that on the shoestring,” an officer from the precinct said. “We have also acquired CCTV footage that shows Jeong entering the building on Feb. 24, a day before the victim was found dead.”

“There is no footage that shows him leaving the building,” the source continued. “[The suspect] at first said he left [via an exit] between the walls of Ham’s building and a neighboring building, but later overturned that statement.”

Authorities believe he likely used the back door when fleeing the crime scene.

According to police, Jeong was acquainted with the victim for nearly 30 years and has been one of her tenants on the second floor from 2002 to 2010.

They added that the he currently lives about 2 kilometers (1.24 miles) from the crime scene and worked as a day laborer, but had not worked regularly recently due to diabetes-related issues. Jeong also has a criminal record, with several fraud convictions and a prison term.

Jeong admitted to reporters on Monday evening, when he was put in jail at the Suseo Police Precinct, that he had visited Ham’s residence last month, but that the door had been open and the victim was not home.

He added that he had gone there to buy vegetable juice as usual, but could not recall an exact date.

“It’s been rumored that Jeong borrowed millions of won from Ham and that they often argued about it,” the police officer said. “However, that has not been included in the investigation and no one brought it up when we were questioning her neighbors.”

On Tuesday morning when Jeong emerged for questioning, he reiterated that he did not kill Ham, did not try to borrow money from her, and is not addicted to gambling, as some local media outlets had reported.

Ham was known to be rich, owning billions of won worth of assets, and police believe her murder was somehow linked to her wealth.

According to the authorities, the two-story building where Ham was found dead is worth between 1.5 billion won and 2 billion won ($1.3 million to $1.8 million), and the victim had earned millions of won from renting that resident alone.

The wife of Ham’s nephew previously told police that the elderly woman had argued on the phone with a man who introduced himself as a telemarketer. She also reported that a masked man had attempted to break into the house two weeks before Ham was found dead, but that the incident was never reported.

BY HAN YOUNG-IK, KIM BONG-MOON [kim.bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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