Thursday, October 1, 2009

IM MURDER: Official suspect steps forward, tells all -- Part 1

In a previously unreported exclusive, the only bona fide suspect steps forward with a dramatic story

COLUMBIA, 10/1/09 (Beat Byte) -- One of the last people to see MU biochemist Jeong Im alive says he was an official suspect in the researcher's death, to this day uncertain if University of Missouri police investigating the 2005 homicide have cleared him.

Former Im co-worker and MU employee Jerry Davis (a pseudonym) told the Columbia Heart Beat that shortly after the murder, investigators searched his central Columbia home; took hair samples; swabbed his mouth for DNA; and interviewed him for over two hours.  

"The police questioned me, as a suspect, at great length," he explained.

Two years later, investigators dramatically reappeared in what neighbors described as a "police raid."   Multiple University and Columbia police squad cars closed the street to Davis' home after a female MU employee and another woman filed separate stalking and harassment complaints against him in Boone County Circuit Court.   After trials in October 2007, Boone County circuit court judge Leslie Schneider issued year-long restraining orders against Davis in both cases.

"These events, which happened almost two years after the murder, were the result of several misunderstandings," Davis told the Heart Beat.  "Probably the biggest one was the 'raid,' where several police (including one of the MU detectives who had initially interviewed me) came to the house and talked with me for about 15 minutes."

Persons of interest

Perennially tight-lipped, police detectives investigating Im's murder have never publicly named any suspects.

Privately, an MU police officer named a female suspect sometime in 2007, according to a classmate who said she attended graduate criminology classes with the officer at Columbia College.   In 2006, detectives questioned, investigated, and later cleared Fulton resident Robert Brooks, a patient at the VA hospital next to the Maryland Avenue parking garage where Im's body was found (see story link below). 

Though periodically testy during our interview, once admonishing me to "Just drop it, OK?" Davis otherwise spoke freely, on the record, and without objection to the use of his real identity (we substituted the pseudonym to protect the identities of the two women Davis was charged with harassing). 

MU detectives initially questioned Davis as a matter of routine, he explained.   The restraining orders prompted the second look.  

"I understand the police were told they should expect an armed, raving lunatic, and what they got was a calm and rational me," Davis said.  "I had a semi-automatic pistol in the room at the time, which the police simply put aside at my request.  I do keep guns, but I am a very responsible gun owner who has never had any issues with the law." 

Referencing the two women who won the restraining orders, Davis said the so-called raid was a "waste of police time and resources, and shows the extent of Jane and Judy's misjudgement of my actions and intentions." 

Favorite person

One of several people to see Im on the early January morning he was murdered, Davis said he was speaking with his supervisor from about 9:45 to about 10:45 am.    Cameras clocked Im leaving the building at 10:31 and investigators pegged his death at between that time and 10:45. 

"I saw Dr. Im leave when I was in my bosses' office," Davis explained.    "After my boss and I were through talking, I went to the lab computer and started to prepare a document that we had discussed, and to find samples to transfer to another investigator. I ate lunch at about 1 pm, and was in the lab pretty much the entire time, minus water and bathroom breaks.  I never left the department the whole day." 

Witnesses, he said, vouched for his whereabouts.   "There was another graduate student who saw me from time to time during that period," Davis said.  "She has since graduated and moved back to India, but she also spoke to the police and they have her statements on file."

At his home, Davis said police looked at clothing and other personal items.  "I have never had any sort of hooded sweatshirt, or boots of the type" [detectives identified at the crime scene], Davis told me.  "The lab or department never had a knife like the one used" [in the murder].  Dr. Im was one of my favorite people in the department.  There would never be a reason for me to hurt or kill him."


NEXT:  Stalking or just talking?

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