Ex-con murders woman and wanders freely

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Ex-con murders woman and wanders freely

A sex offender on parole and fitted with an electronic monitor allegedly murdered a middle-aged woman in Seoul and roamed free for two days before he was caught Saturday.

He disabled and removed his ankle monitor on Friday, but the authorities did not spend much energy trying to find him. The suspect was caught in Daejeon on Saturday when he attempted to mug a woman on a street.

The suspect, a 35-year-old man surnamed Kim, was released on parole this year after 10 years in prison for sexual assault. He was obliged to wear an electronic ankle bracelet until 2025.

Parole boards can require ex-convicts who committed sexual assault, murder or robbery to wear an electronic ankle bracelet to monitor their whereabouts, and arrest them if they linger near high-risk areas like kindergartens or fail to remain within a designated living quarter during the night.

Kim allegedly murdered a 60-year-old female resident of an apartment in Gaepo-dong, southern Seoul, on Thursday. The next day, around 9:30 p.m., he disabled and removed his ankle monitor and went on the run.

When Kim broke his ankle device on Friday, the Ministry of Justice received an alert and checked on the apartment complex in Gaepo-dong, knowing that he had visited it on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

When they could not find Kim there, it took them 14 hours to make a report to police that Kim had gone missing.

On Saturday, police visited the apartment complex and asked questions of residents but called off the search without checking the safety of all residents.

On the same day at around 10 p.m., Kim was arrested in Daejeon after he attempted to snatch a woman’s purse on a street while driving in a rented car. Daejeon authorities found out that the man they caught had broken parole and informed police in Seoul.

Still, the Seoul authorities did not know that Kim had killed a woman.

“We knew that the runaway was caught in Daejeon a day after he disconnected his electronic ankle monitor in Seoul,” a police officer said. “But we found out about the murder after he was caught.”

On Sunday, authorities revisited the apartment in Gaepo-dong after receiving a report from the security guard. He was concerned that a resident failed to show up at his office to pick up a package containing mackerel.

Busting into the apartment of the resident, the authorities found a dead 60-year-old woman surnamed Ko. She did not show any signs of external injury, and police suspect she may have suffocated to death.

Police found CCTV footage showing Kim entering the apartment complex on Thursday at 1:45 p.m. and leaving it at 6:12 p.m. When they questioned Kim, he admitted to committing the murder.

According to police, Kim was working at a real estate agency, where he got to know Ko. He told police that he asked her to lend him money to pay back credit card debt and murdered her when she refused.

Police said Kim took Ko’s bankbooks when he left the apartment on Thursday. Police added that Ko was found naked, and they are investigating whether Kim sexually assaulted her. This is reportedly the third case of murder committed by an ex-con fitted with a monitoring bracelet since 2008, when the Act on the Electronic Monitoring of Specific Criminal Offenders was enforced.

In 2012, a convicted sex offender murdered a woman by sneaking into her house and stabbing her with a knife, and in 2013, another ex-con sex offender murdered his live-in girlfriend. Both men were wearing their monitoring devices at the time of the murders.

From 2008 to last year, a total of 4,788 ex-convicts were ordered to wear ankle bracelets, of which 2,950, the largest group, were convicted of sexual assaults. Ex-cons convicted of murder, robbery and kidnapping minors made up the rest of the group.

While the number of ankle-bracelet wearers jumped from 127 in 2009 to 2,129 in 2014, the number of monitoring personnel at the Justice Ministry grew from 48 in 2009 to 119 in 2014, only 2.5 times in the same period, according to the Justice Ministry.

Only a day before the murder, the ministry held a meeting with all managers of monitoring centers and promised to strengthen the tracking of ex-convicts wearing ankle bracelets.

BY YUN JUNG-MIN, SONG SEUNG-HWAN AND ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]
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