Shocking new details have been revealed after six suspects were arrested in Georgia in connection with a decomposing body found dead in the trunk of a car last week – and have now been charged with murder and gang suspicion.
Police had previously said the victim's body appeared to have been starved and beaten for weeks, and Gwinnett County Police Sergeant Michele Pihera added more details in an interview Thursday NewsNation. “We believe that most of these injuries and most of what she went through were due to her enlistment in the Soldiers of Christ,” she said.
The suspects – five adults and a teenager – “described themselves as members of the Soldiers of Christ,” police said previously before revealing the allegations of initiation. The victim, who was not named publicly, traveled from South Korea to the Atlanta suburbs in mid-June to join a “religious organization,” Ms. Pihera said.
She said investigators were looking for more information about the group.
“We don’t know how far-reaching this organization is,” she added. “It's very likely that it only took place at the home in Lawrenceville.” She said she believes “we have everyone responsible for this crime in custody.”
Although it is unclear how exactly the victim and suspects knew each other, Ms Pihera said police believe the victim and suspects had “some connection”, adding that their families appeared to know each other.
On September 13, police took Eric Hyun, 26, Juoonhyum Lee, 22, Joonho Lee, 26, Hyunji Lee, 25, Gawon Lee, 26, and a 15-year-old into custody. They were charged with aggravated murder, false imprisonment, tampering with evidence and concealing a death.
Two days later, police announced that multiple criminal street gang charges had also been filed against the suspects.
The Sept. 15 police press release states: “Georgia law describes criminal street gangs as ‘any organization, association or group of three or more individuals who are actually associated, whether formally or informally, and engage in criminal gang activity ‘.”
The series of events that led investigators to the victim is somewhat convoluted. One of the suspects, Eric Hyun, was at a hospital and asked a family member to get something from the car for him. It was then that the grim discovery of the body was made. The relative called the police.
The discovery sparked a murder investigation, with the victim's cause of death still under investigation. She weighed just 70 pounds at the time of her death, leading the medical examiner's office to believe malnutrition could be a factor, officials wrote.