Burning Car Holds Body

University Police ask help from major case squad January 8, 2005
By MIKE WELLS of the Tribune’s staff
Columbia Daily Tribune

Photo: A body found yesterday in the trunk of a burning Honda in the Maryland Avenue parking garage prompted a death investigation by University of Missouri-Columbia police, who have called in the Mid-Missouri Major Case Squad. (Brian W. Kratzer photo)

University Police responding yesterday to a car fire in the Maryland Avenue parking garage at the University of Missouri-Columbia discovered an unidentified person in the vehicle’s trunk. MU police have asked for help in the investigation from the Mid-Missouri Major Case Squad. MU police Capt. Brian Weimer said a caller used a campus emergency phone to report a vehicle fire at 12:24 p.m. When officers arrived, they found a body inside the car’s trunk.

Investigators did not have a positive identification last night, Weimer said.

Missouri Department of Revenue records indicate the white, four-door Honda is registered to Jeong Hyok Im, 72, a research assistant professor at MU’s Medical School, and his wife, Tesuk Im, 67, director of library services at Linn State Technical College.

Weimer said investigators had not interviewed the couple concerning the incident and that he was not aware of a report of a stolen vehicle. He also noted that no one had been detained for questioning and no arrests had been made.

A Linn State employee said Tesuk Im reported to work yesterday, but she apparently left early, referring to inclement weather. No one answered phone calls placed to the Im residence last night.

Soon after the body was found, MU police requested assistance from Columbia police and firefighters. Columbia detectives Jim Harmon and Jeff Nichols helped process the scene. Harmon is an arson investigator, and Nichols is an evidence technician.

By late afternoon, investigators were still processing the car in the garage as the sky filled with heavy snow.

The Honda sat in the northwest aisle on the third floor of the garage. Its doors and singed trunk lid were open. Floodlights shined on the vehicle, and evidence markers sat on the floor.

A van from the Columbia Police Department’s crime scene/forensic unit was at the site. Investigators in white suits searched the car and took photographs. Other officers walked neighboring aisles, shining flashlights between parked vehicles. Two officers searched a grass lot on the west side of the garage.

Boone County Medical Examiner Valerie Rao arrived at the garage about 5 p.m., and a hearse arrived nearly an hour later.

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

Motorists with cars parked near the scene waited outside the police tape until officers escorted them to their vehicles.

Weimer said drivers were asked for identification and contact information before leaving. He said they might be witnesses.

An e-mail sent just before 3 p.m. yesterday to MU employees indicated the seriousness of the situation.

"No vehicles are allowed to enter the garage at this time," the e-mail said. "Vehicles are allowed to leave through the south exit by the veterans’ hospital, and drivers are being asked to show identification before leaving. Drivers of vehicles parked on the third floor should not enter the garage without a police escort."

Weimer said anyone with information or anyone who thinks they could be a witness should call MU Sgt. Shawn Spalding at 882-5928.

The Tribune’s Nate Carlisle and Megan Means contributed to this report.


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