Squad Seeks Tips in Death of Researcher - Jeong H. Im

January 9, 2005
By MIKE WELLS of the Tribune’s staff
Columbia Daily Tribune

A retired research assistant professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia died of multiple stab wounds before firefighters found in his body in the trunk of a burning car Friday.

Boone County Medical Examiner Valerie Rao said after an autopsy that Jeong H. Im, 72, of Columbia was stabbed several times, but she declined to elaborate.

MU police yesterday named Im as the victim. His body was found in the trunk of his burning white, 1995 Honda inside the Maryland Avenue parking garage, MU police Capt. Brian Weimer said.

The case was under investigation by the Mid-Missouri Major Case Squad. No arrests had been made by last night.

Weimer spoke to reporters at a news conference yesterday in Jesse Hall but declined to discuss details such as whether a murder weapon was recovered or the cause of the fire.

Rao also was cautious about discussing the investigation. Regarding questions on the estimated time of death, the number of wounds, the type of weapon or the fire, she said, "We don’t want to release any of that information because it’s so crucial to what the police are doing."

Police yesterday hadn’t ruled out robbery as a motive.

"All possibilities are being looked at right now," Weimer said.

Im was primarily a protein chemist. Mark McIntosh, chairman of the MU department of molecular microbiology and immunology, said he doubted the crime could have been the act of an angry student.

"He’s a 72-year-old and pretty much keeps to himself, and so I can’t imagine that it was anything more than some random act," he said.

Police were trying to find an unknown person who used a campus emergency phone to report the fire, Weimer said. Police want that person to contact them again.

Weimer also asked the public for help in identifying a man - 6 feet to 6 feet, 2 inches tall - who was seen in the garage area wearing some type of mask, possibly a drywall or painter’s mask. That individual is a "person of interest," Weimer said, and not a suspect. "

There could be a valid reason for someone like this to be in the garage," he said. At about 6 p.m. Friday, MU Police Chief Jack Watring activated the major case squad. It’s the first homicide investigation on the campus in nearly 16 years. The request drew in 28 squad members from various law enforcement agencies, including the Columbia Police Department and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Im’s wife, Tesuk Im, declined comment yesterday when contacted at her Columbia home.

The parking garage serves employees of MU and University of Missouri Health Care as well as employees of and visitors to the Mid-Missouri Mental Health Center.

Weimer said investigators were still trying to determine the timeframe for the crime. Anyone who was in or near the garage from early morning to afternoon Friday has been asked to call MU police at 882-7203 or CrimeStoppers at 875-8477.

"By all means, let us sort it out," he said. "Please, give us a call and let us know what you saw."

Tribune reporter Megan Means contributed to this report.


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