Couple says they prayed to resurrect daughter

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Couple says they prayed to resurrect daughter

A pastor arrested on suspicions of child abuse and murder after his 13-year-old daughter’s corpse was found inside her family home more than 10 months after she stopped attending school told police that he had kept the body because he believed praying would bring her back to life.

The police requested an arrest warrant Thursday for the man, surnamed Lee, 48, and his wife, surnamed Baek, 41, on charges of foul play and abandoning a corpse. They also filed for an arrest warrant for Baek’s younger sister, 39, on abuse charges.

Authorities are considering charging the couple with murder.

Lee admitted Wednesday to beating the 13-year-old for five hours with a broomstick on March 17. He and his wife, the girl’s stepmother, later found her dead, he said, and covered her in blankets and kept the body inside their house for over 10 months.

“I thought God would bring her back to life if I prayed for her,” Lee said in questioning, claiming that he and his wife lit candles around the corpse and prayed next to it in their house in Bucheon, Gyeonggi. “I considered for a while whether I should call the police when I found her dead.”

Authorities believe the story is the suspect’s attempt to avoid social responsibility for his actions and have so far not found clues linking the couple to any sort of religious cult that believes in the resurrection of the dead.

The theological college where Lee worked as a professor fired him on Wednesday.

Initial autopsy results released Thursday by the National Forensic Service indicated internal bleeding on the back of the girl’s thighs, but no signs of fracture or abdominal hemorrhage. More thorough results will be available next week.

“From the results of the initial autopsy, it is hard to determine whether Lee and Baek’s physical abuse led to girl’s death,” a police officer said.

The Bucheon police said that the couple admitted to hitting the girl on the palms, calves and thighs with wooden sticks and a broomstick for five consecutive hours on March 17, engaging in what the husband and wife called “disciplining their child.”

After taking a nap in another room, they found their daughter dead seven hours later, wrapped her body in blankets and kept the body inside the house. To mask the stench, they surrounded the body with air fresheners.

Police said Wednesday that the state of the corpse was not so decayed as to reveal the skeleton, but slightly mummified due to long-term neglect.

To mummify, by definition, means to treat a corpse with oil and wrap it in strips of cloth to preserve it. Korea experiences a monsoon season every summer and extreme humidity.

The couple said that the incident in March was the first time they had stepped over the line in disciplining their daughter, who they said was “prone to stealing and running away.”

In her elementary school records, the 13-year-old was described as “an excellent student who fulfilled everyday requirements at school.”

She had not missed a day of school for six consecutive years.

BY CHOI MO-RAN, CHO HAN-DAE [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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