Wednesday, August 20, 2008

RUMOR HAS IT: Smoking Gun in MU Murder Case?

Regarding the January 2005 murder of MU biochemist Jeong Im, a well-placed source tells the Columbia Heart Beat that University of Missouri police used a "log book of construction workers" to either rule in or rule out a viable suspect who worked at the University during the time of the homicide, and that a press release about the evidence might be in the offing.

The suspect may have been a contract construction worker or a full-time employee, the source said.

A widely-publicized description of a white male wearing a painter's dust mask seen in the vicinity of the crime prompted the log book review, the source explained, adding that "only someone working on the premises" would have had enough knowledge of the murder scene -- the university's Maryland Avenue parking garage -- to commit the crime undetected during such a narrow window of time.

Stabbed to death, Im's body was discovered in the garage during a workday lunch hour, burned with gasoline in the trunk of his car. Investigators placed the time of death about 1.75 hours before the body's discovery -- around 10:45 am.

The source also said that information about the log book came from the university chancellor's office and not from MU police.

On calling the Chancellor's office for confirmation, we were directed to MU spokesperson Christian Basi, who told the Columbia Heart Beat that "information about the case could have come from someone in the Chancellor's office. Our police department reports to a vice chancellor, Jackie Jones."

Basi called MU police to confirm that they "have investigated construction workers" working on the premises at the time of the murder. But he said they denied that any press releases about the investigation were forthcoming.

That's not surprising. The last officially reported activity on the case was nearly three years ago and MU police have been unusually tight-lipped about the investigation.

Nearly a year after the crime, MU police "Capt. Brian Weimer...declined to walk a reporter through Im's last steps or to offer meaningful answers to routine questions about the slaying," Columbia Tribune reporter Sara Agnew wrote in a 2006 follow-up story. Then-MU general counsel Bunky Wright "denied an Open Meetings and Records Law request for the MUPD file on Im’s death, citing exemptions that allow investigative reports to be considered closed records until the investigation becomes inactive," the Trib reported in July 2005.

This past July, MU police chief Jack Watring seemed uncomfortable about a reporter's questions regarding an update, "at one point asking why the Tribune was interested in writing another article about Im’s murder."


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