Sunday, September 20, 2009

IM MURDER: Mizzou police and legal team stall, block, and punt

Even America's Most Wanted turned away

COLUMBIA, 9/20/09  (Beat Byte) --   "Chief would you like to respond to Mr. Martin?  I have sent him nothing at this time."

That's Mizzou police Captain Brian Weimer, forwarding an email inquiry I sent twice -- once on Sep. 9 and again on Sep. 14 -- to Chief Jack Watring about the Jeong Im murder, which Weimer and company maintain they have yet to solve.   

Neither Watring nor Weimer ever responded.  

Since roughly 2007 in fact -- about two years after the brutal Jan. 2005 stabbing in an MU parking garage -- Mizzou administrators and police officers seem to have been paying lip service to the idea they want public help with the case.  

After what was a regular information flow -- knife, suspect sketch, boot prints, etc., all reported in a timely fashion with a repeatedly stated goal:  to engage the public in the resolution -- both administrators and police officials have stalled public inquiry, deflecting even the most basic questions.  

MU police even turned away America's Most Wanted (AMW) -- not once, but twice -- a source close to the show told the Heart Beat on condition of anonymity.   Given AMW's stellar reputation for engaging the public and getting at the truth in cold case investigations, Mizzou's reluctance to engage John Walsh and crew is so surprising it's almost shocking. 

Inquiries from reporters have been similarly stalled and deflected, as these passages from many Columbia Tribune articles illustrate:

"MU Police Chief Jack Watring was even less forthcoming about the case.  He instructed a reporter to use information from archived news stories and at one point asked why the Tribune was interested in writing another article about Im’s murder. (From July 2008, the case 3.5 years old)

University of Missouri 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."

Boone County Medical Examiner Valerie Rao declined a request to discuss the autopsy report, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation.

Capt. Brian Weimer, MU Police Department...declined to walk a reporter through Im's last steps or to offer meaningful answers to routine questions about the slaying.

How many investigators are working the case?  "I can't answer that," Weimer said.

How many leads have you followed?  "We haven't kept count."

What evidence have you collected?  "That's part of an active investigation and cannot be expanded upon," he said.

Was he robbed?   "I don't know if you are trying to establish a motive, but at this time, we are saying that we have not identified a specific motive and all options are being considered," he said.

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