Friday, September 25, 2009

MU POLICE: May have prime suspect in Jeong Im murder

Knife reportedly used in Im murder
Our series re-examining the 2005 murder continues

COLUMBIA, 9/25/09 (Beat Byte) --  Two different and previously unreported suspects -- a confirmed male and an unconfirmed female -- have emerged in the 2005 stabbing death of MU biochemistry researcher Jeong Im.

As late as last year, University of Missouri police were calling the female their "prime suspect," says the former classmate of an MU police officer she says identified the suspect.

"The way it was told to me was that the MUPD are pretty set on the idea of it being Lisa Johnson," said Jean Smith, who attended a graduate-level criminology class with MU police officer Robert Brown (a pseudonym) and spoke on condition of anonymity.   Smith contacted the Heart Beat after reading about our efforts to re-examine the unsolved murder.  We've spent a great deal of time confirming her credibility and seeking responses from other parties, excepting the female suspect.

Im was slight in stature, so stabbing from a larger assailant -- male or female -- struck Smith, who has a degree in forensic science, as plausible.  But on asking how a woman could have hoisted Im's body into the trunk of his car, Smith says Officer Brown told her, "Lisa Johnson did not do it herself.  But apparently there was a lot of circumstantial evidence that led the MU police to think Johnson was ultimately behind the killing."

Smith said she was "confident" recalling her conversations with Officer Brown, and that she believed his account.

"Robert told me he helped some with the investigation," Smith told the Heart Beat. "He mentioned Lisa Johnson acting suspiciously after the killing, leaving town (maybe moving) soon after this all went down.  He mentioned quite a few little things. I do know that Lisa Johnson is who they think was ultimately behind the killing."

Although the MU police officer in question did not respond to repeated and detailed requests for comment, MU police captains Brian Weimer and Kevin Richardson (real names) did forward our two emailed requests to MU police chief Jack Watring.

"Chief, would you like to respond to Mr. Martin?" Weimer emailed Watring, cc'ing the Heart Beat. "I have sent him nothing at this time. Captain Weimer."    Watring did not respond.

--  Mike Martin

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