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University of Missouri

MUPD Solves Professor’s Murder

DNA evidence is key to solving case.

Captain Brian Weimer of MUPD

Capt. Brian Weimer of the MU Police Department announces at a press conference that the killer of Jeong H. Im has been identified Jan. 30, 2013, at MUPD headquarters. Photo by Nicholas Benner.

Eight years ago, the MU community was shocked by a gruesome killing of a retired research assistant professor in a parking garage in the light of day.

Despite some 300 leads investigated by the MU Police Department, the murder of Jeong H. Im went unsolved until recently. MU Police Chief Jack Watring announced Jan. 30, 2013, that based on DNA evidence gathered at the scene the killer was Timothy Aaron Hoag, a 35-year-old male with a history of violence. On Aug. 9, 2012, Hoag committed suicide by jumping off a downtown parking garage.

Jeong Im and his wife Tesuk

This photo was published in a testimonial written by the Korean community after Jeong H. Im’s death. It shows Im with his wife, Tesuk. Daughters to the marriage are Soo and Jean. On Jan. 30, Chancellor Brady J. Deaton extended his “continued solace and sympathy for the Ihm family.”

The family of Im, who use the Korean surname Ihm, thanked MU police and the other law enforcement agencies involved in solving the case. “This brings closure on the tragedy to our family, as well as to the University of Missouri and Columbia communities as a whole,” the statement said. At the time of his death, Dr. Im was working in Kim Wise’s microbiology lab in the School of Medicine. The majority of his research was with Dr. H.D. Kim, chair of the pharmacology department.

MU Chancellor Brady J. Deaton expressed his “heartfelt compassion” for the victim’s family, given the years the case went unsolved. Its resolution “is the most important news we will hear this year,” he said.

The breakthrough came Dec. 21, 2012, when MU Police received a tip that Hoag had committed the murder. Investigators obtained his blood sample that was collected after he committed suicide, and they sent it to the Missouri State Highway Patrol Crime Lab for analysis. Hoag’s DNA matched that found at the crime scene.

Detective Sergeant Shawn Spalding

Capt. Brian Weimer credits Detective Sgt. Shawn Spalding for bringing the Im murder case to resolution. Chancellor Brady J. Deaton notes it was a “community effort to solve the case.” Photo by Nicholas Benner.

The murder of Im on Jan. 7, 2005, was so unnerving in part because it was so brazen.

At about 10:30 a.m., the 72-year-old Im is seen on grainy surveillance video leaving the School of Medicine en route to the Maryland Avenue Parking Structure. Two hours later, police and firefighters arrive on Level 3 of the garage, where Im’s 1996 Honda Accord was on fire.

Im’s body was found in the trunk. He had been stabbed to death, stuffed in the trunk, and the vehicle was set on fire, investigators determined.

2006 photo of Timothy Aaron Hoag courtesy of MUPD.

2006 photo of Timothy Aaron Hoag courtesy of MUPD.

The Dec. 21 tip led to another person, the name of whom police have not released, who claims to have been with Hoag on the day of the murder, MU Police Capt. Brian Weimer said. He drove Hoag to the garage the morning of the killing so “Hoag could get a car.” Later that day, the driver received a call from Hoag demanding to be picked up at a business north of campus and to bring gasoline, Weimer said.

The driver took Hoag to Level 2 of the Maryland Avenue garage thinking that Hoag needed gasoline to start his car. With gas container in hand, Hoag proceeded upstairs to Level 3. When Hoag returned, the driver told police, he was wearing a particle facemask and a hood over his head. As they drove away, the driver noticed smoke billowing from Level 3.

The driver never came forward “out of fear for his family’s safety,” Weimer said.

More information available on the MUPD website

Correction: the current version of this story includes Dr. Im’s correct title.