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He Spent 20 Years in Prison, Until a Serial Killer Confessed to the Crime

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He Spent 20 Years in Prison, Until a Serial Killer Confessed to the Crime

SEOUL, South Korea — A person in South Korea who spent 20 years in jail for the homicide of a 13-year-old woman was acquitted in a retrial on Thursday after the nation’s most notorious serial killer confessed to the crime final yr.

The acquitted man, Yoon Sung-yeo, 53, was sentenced to life in jail in 1989 on homicide prices involving the loss of life of the younger woman in Hwaseong, a county south of Seoul, the earlier yr. Mr. Yoon spent 20 years behind bars earlier than he was launched on parole in 2009.

He would have lived the remainder of his life as a former convict however for a sensational twist in what was South Korea’s longest unsolved serial homicide case. Last yr, the police introduced {that a} man serving a life sentence in jail for raping and murdering his sister-in-law in 1994 had confessed in that case, the so-called Hwaseong serial killings, wherein 10 girls had been discovered brutally murdered across the county from 1986 to 1991.

The confessed serial killer, Lee Chun-jae, additionally admitted to having killed 4 others, together with the 13-year-old woman. Mr. Yoon instantly demanded a retrial.

Park Jeong-jae, a district courtroom decide in Suwon, south of Seoul, mentioned on Thursday in his ruling on Mr. Yoon’s case, “It was a wrong verdict based on faulty investigations.”

“I, as a member of the judiciary, apologize to the accused that the judiciary had failed to serve its role properly as the last bastion for human rights,” he added.

When the decision was introduced, Mr. Yoon’s supporters exploded into applause and offered him with flowers. Prosecutors determined to not attraction the ruling.

“I hope no more people will be wrongfully accused, as I was,” Mr. Yoon advised reporters on Thursday.

For a long time, the Hwaseong murders terrorized South Koreans. The victims, ages 7 to 71, had been typically strangled to loss of life after being raped. Their our bodies had been discovered with their mouths filled with their very own stockings, bras or socks. Some of the our bodies had been mutilated with umbrellas, forks or razor blades.

“I still don’t know why I did what I did,” Mr. Lee mentioned final month, when he testified throughout Mr. Yoon’s retrial. “I wasn’t thinking or planning. I committed the crimes like a moth drawn to a flame.”

A complete of two million law enforcement officials had been mobilized to hunt for the killer over time, and greater than 21,000 males had been interrogated within the case. The killings additionally impressed the 2003 blockbuster film “Memories of Murder.”

The circumstances remained unresolved till final yr, when advances in DNA evaluation allowed forensic consultants to extract samples from among the proof collected on the homicide scenes. The samples matched Mr. Lee’s, and he later started confessing to the murders.

During Mr. Yoon’s retrial, one of many former police detectives who had investigated his case admitted that Mr. Yoon had been overwhelmed and disadvantaged of sleep for 3 days as he was pressured right into a confession. On Thursday, the courtroom mentioned that the case towards Mr. Yoon had been constructed upon unlawful detention and torture and “no reliable evidence.”

Mr. Lee’s confession, nonetheless, was “very credible,” it mentioned.

The National Police Agency issued an announcement on Thursday apologizing for “stigmatizing an innocent young man as a murderer.”

“We bow our head deeply in apology for him and his family,” it mentioned.

Mr. Yoon’s attorneys mentioned that the unique police investigation had bordered on absurdity: The police argued that Mr. Yoon had entered the murdered woman’s residence by climbing a wall. But once they took him there to re-create the homicide scene, Mr. Yoon, who suffered from polio as a toddler and walks with a limp, couldn’t climb the wall.

Mr. Yoon’s argument that he was tortured into confession was not admissible throughout his unique trial.

When Mr. Lee appeared as a witness throughout Mr. Yoon’s retrial in November, he, too, testified that the police investigation had been shoddy.

Before he went on his killing spree in 1986, he was questioned by the police a few rape however walked free when officers determined to not pursue the case, he mentioned. At one level, he mentioned he had been carrying the watch of one in every of his victims when the police questioned him as a part of their investigation into the Hwaseong murders. Again, he walked free.

“I still don’t understand how come it has taken so long for them to catch me,” Mr. Lee, 57, mentioned. “I was questioned by police detectives several times, but they always asked me about my friends and neighbors, but never seriously about me.”

Police officers mentioned that Mr. Lee might have determined to cooperate with them after the DNA evaluation as a result of he now not confronted any extra legal prices. The 15-year statute of limitations on the final of the Hwaseong murders expired in 2006. But his possibilities of parole have evaporated.

Mr. Lee mentioned he would somewhat keep in jail than be set free on parole, citing the case of Cho Doo-soon, who was launched from jail this month after serving 12 years in jail for the rape of an 8-year-old woman. For months earlier than his launch, South Koreans issued loss of life threats towards Mr. Cho, forcing the police to extend safety round his residence.

“It’s not like I haven’t thought about what life would be like if I were released on parole,” Mr. Lee mentioned final month. “But I would rather stay in prison. I have heard how the people were reacting to Cho Doo-soon’s release. I can imagine what it would be like if they heard I was coming out.”