Suspect in ’97 Itaewon murder case extradited

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Suspect in ’97 Itaewon murder case extradited

An American man accused of stabbing to death a 22-year-old Korean college student in 1997 at a Burger King in Itaewon, central Seoul, is set to be extradited to South Korea this week, according to the Ministry of Justice.

Arthur Patterson, now 36, was pinpointed as one of the main suspects in what later became known as the Itaewon Murder Case when he was just 18 years old.

Investigation proceedings were suspended after Patterson fled to the United States in 1999.

Korean officials from the Ministry of Justice took him into custody at Los Angeles International Airport and will arrive at Incheon International Airport at 4:40 p.m. today [Wednesday], the ministry announced Tuesday.

Patterson was accused of killing Hongik University student Cho Jung-pil at a fast food restaurant on April 3, 1997, in the popular foreigner-friendly Itaewon district. Cho was found dead in the bathroom, stabbed nine times in his neck and chest.

Patterson and his friend, Korean-American Edward Lee, also 18, who were both at the restaurant at the time of the murder, were pinpointed as the primary suspects. Lee was later convicted for the murder.

However, Korea’s Supreme Court in 1998 reversed and remanded the charge, saying that there was insufficient evidence to conclude the case had been carried out by one man and he was fully acquitted based on a lack of evidence.

Patterson was convicted for weapons possession and destruction of evidence and sentenced to 18 months in prison, though he was granted a stay of execution in early 1999 and released. He then fled to the United States in August 1999 before the prosecution could extend his foreign travel ban.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office indicted Patterson for murder in 2011, and began extradition proceedings in collaboration with U.S. officials. He was arrested by U.S. authorities in May 2011, though he was able to delay his extradition to South Korea by submitting multiple habeas corpus petitions.

BY LEE YU-JEONG [koo.yurim@joongang.co.kr]

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