Six people in Georgia — five adults and one 14-year-old boy — were arrested this week in connection with a woman found dead in the trunk of a car parked outside of a popular spa who authorities say had been lured to the U.S. to join a “religious organization” but was instead beaten and starved to death.
Joonhyun Lee, 22, Joonho Lee, 26, Hyunji Lee, 25, Eric Hyun, 26, Gawon Lee, 26, and the boy were all taken into custody Wednesday evening and charged with one count each of felony murder, false imprisonment, tampering with evidence, and concealing the death of another, authorities announced.
According to a press release from the Gwinnett County Police Department, officers assigned to the Central Precinct responded to a call at about 10:50 p.m. on Sept. 12 about suspicious activity taking place at a business in the 3500 block of Gwinnett Place Drive in unincorporated Duluth, Georgia, outside of Atlanta.
That is the address of Jeju Sauna Spa, a 24-hour Korean bathhouse, however, police said that none of the suspects appear to have any connection to the business.
Once there, first responders confirmed the body of a dead woman was found inside a Jaguar sedan parked outside the spa. Authorities said it appeared as though the body had been there for a week or longer.
Police provided additional details about the victim and the alleged suspects in a Thursday afternoon news conference.
GCPD Cpl. Juan Madiedo said Detectives believe that Hyun was the driver of the vehicle where the woman’s 70-pound body was discovered. Hyun allegedly parked the vehicle in front of the spa earlier on Tuesday and called a family member to pick him up.
The family member took Hyun to an Atlanta area hospital, where he was treated for unrelated injuries. Hyun then told the family member to retrieve a personal item for him from the vehicle. That’s when the family member returned and discovered the body in the trunk. He subsequently called 911 and reported the body.
Police said they discovered incriminating evidence at an address in the 2400 block of Stable Gate in Lawrenceville that was associated with Hyun.
“That search warrant yielded substantial evidence to charge the individuals for the crime,” Madiedo said. “During the course of the investigation, it is believed that the basement [of that address] is where the crime took place. Detectives believe that the victim was brought over from South Korea sometime in the summer under the guise of joining a religious organization. They called themselves ‘Soldiers of Christ.’”
Police said there is no indication at this point that the suspects were involved in sex trafficking or had any sexual motive for the crimes.
According to Madiedo, the victim was subjected to “beatings and malnourishment,” which the coroner’s office believes was the cause of her death. Madiedo later clarified that the medical examiner believed starvation or malnutrition was likely the ultimate cause of death.
The victim — described only as a female in her 20s or 30s — is not being identified because her family is still in South Korea, and authorities have not yet been able to notify them about her death.
There’s no indication that there were any other victims or suspects yet to be taken into custody.
While Hyun is hospitalized under police supervision, the other suspects were all booked into the Gwinnett County Jail, where they are being held without bond.
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