Navy Expert Aids MUPD with Im Case

Investigation of stabbing has no military connection, chief says.

March 31, 2005
By MIKE WELLS of the Tribune’s staff

A U.S. Navy forensics expert has reviewed the University of Missouri-Columbia Police Department’s investigation into the slaying of Professor Jeong Im. The help has nothing to do with military secrets, MU Police Chief Jack Watring said yesterday.

Im, 72, was semi-retired from MU’s microbiology and immunology department and conducted lab work for other professors. His body was found Jan. 7 in the trunk of his white 1995 Honda on the third level of the Maryland Avenue garage. Im died of multiple stab wounds to the chest and was put in the car between 10:30 and 10:45 a.m., police said, and the killer returned between noon and 12:20 p.m. to set fire to the trunk.

Louis Eliopulos, a well known and respected forensics expert and author of the "Death Investigator’s Handbook," spent a day earlier this month reviewing the case. Watring said he contacted Eliopulos in February after learning of him through another forensics expert in Florida, who was an acquaintance of MU Chancellor Brady Deaton.

Watring said the assistance is completely outside Eliopulos’ work as a senior homicide investigation analyst with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, or NCIS. "It has nothing to do with the Navy," Watring said. "It is my understanding that he has done this for other agencies. I didn’t even know he was in the NCIS until I read his resume, and I had already talked to him a couple of times by then."

NCIS spokesman Paul O’Donnell described Eliopulos’ review of the case as a personal effort to offer "one-time advice" in a non-official capacity that was not part of a military investigation.

"The NCIS is not involved in this case," O’Donnell said. "One of our employees is, or rather was."

Eliopulos is a "noted expert" in death investigations, he said.

"He does provide forensic training to our federal agents … and he’s particularly involved in our cold case squad," O’Donnell said.

Efforts to reach Eliopulos were unsuccessful.

MU police sent Eliopulos a copy of the voluminous case file before he visited MU on March 16. The analyst already was traveling to Missouri from Florida to speak at a training session for the Missouri Coroners’ and Medical Examiners’ Association, Watring said.

After spending about eight hours with MU detectives, reviewing evidence and the scene of the crime, Eliopulos offered suggestions and provided the names of a fingerprint expert and a forensic hypnosis expert, Watring said. The police chief would not disclose the suggestions, he said, because the case is ongoing.

Eliopulos’ help is just part of the assistance MU police continue to receive from other agencies, Watring said. For nine days, the Mid-Missouri Major Case Squad provided about 37 detectives from agencies in 13 surrounding counties to work leads in the case.

The squad’s policies dictate that nine days is the longest it may remain active on a case before it is turned back over to the originating agency, Watring said.

In addition, the FBI and the St. Louis County crime lab have processed some of the case evidence, he said. Other assistance is ongoing from the Columbia Police Department’s Major Crimes Unit, the Boone County Sheriff’s Department and the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Division of Drug and Crime Control.

Detectives continue to seek a "person of interest" seen carrying a gas can in the area of the garage between noon and 1 p.m. in the area. Police describe him as 6 feet to 6 feet 2 inches tall and wearing a painter’s or drywall mask and a dark, hooded jacket or sweatshirt.

MU is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case. Anyone with information may call campus police at 882-7203 or CrimeStoppers at 875-8477.

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