Go to contents

Ex-Baseball Slugger Killed for Money, Police Say

Posted March. 12, 2008 02:07,   


Former pro baseball slugger Lee Ho-seong is believed to have killed a 46-year-old woman and her three daughters in a desperate attempt for money.

Hong Seong-sam, chief of the Mapo Police Station in Seoul, said yesterday, “Around 11 a.m. on the day of the killing (Feb. 18), the victim [identified by her last name Kim] withdrew 170 million won from her bank accounts. We believe Lee killed Kim and her family for the money.”

Police have verified the whereabouts of 100 million won of the money, and are tracking down the remaining 70 million.

Lee’s body was found in the Han River in Seoul Monday in an apparent suicide. He was 41.

Three of the four victims were found smothered to death and had marks of external trauma. Kim’s eldest daughter, however, died of a head injury.

“Prior to killing himself, Lee wrote two letters,” Hong said. “In the letter to his brother, Lee asked him to take care of his debts and apologized to his family. The other letter addressed to the commissioner of the Korea Baseball Organization described Lee’s glory days and indicated his imminent suicide, saying he would wait for [the commissioner] in the afterlife.”

▽ Escape plan mulled

Lee reportedly planned to flee abroad after committing the murders. Authorities said he called a travel agency in Seoul on the morning of Feb. 18 to get flight information.

The employee who talked to Lee said, “I got a phone call from a guy whose name is similar to the suspect. He asked if he could buy a ticket to Paraguay, and that he would go to Brazil via Paraguay.”

Afterwards, Lee visited five banks in Seoul with Kim to withdraw money.

A police source said, “Tracking Kim’s bank transactions, we found that she withdrew everything from her savings account and deposited the 170 million won in five banks. Three days later, or on Feb. 18, Kim withdrew all the money from the five banks.”

Surveillance cameras failed to show who accompanied Kim to the banks. But one camera caught Kim riding in the front passenger seat of a white car parked outside of a bank.

Police presume Lee coerced Kim out of her money. After getting the money, Lee is believed to have murdered Kim and her family in the afternoon. The next morning, he reportedly buried them at a public cemetery in South Jeolla Province, where his father was also buried.

On Feb. 19, he drove to the southern city of Gwangju and repaid 50 million won to one of his creditors.

“The creditor handed over 50 million won to Lee’s brother,” police said. “Lee repaid 10 million won in person to the creditor Saturday then gave 40 million won to his girlfriend.”

Afterwards, Lee traveled back and forth several times between the northern Seoul suburb of Goyang and Gwangju. He met his girlfriend for the last time Sunday and stayed at a hotel together. Around midnight, they parted near a bridge in Seoul.

▽ Unsolved questions

Key questions remain unanswered over certain facets of the crime, including why he killed Kim and her daughters despite getting her money. Some officers say Lee sought to destroy evidence through the killings.

That theory is rather unconvincing, however, considering that Lee’s relationship with Kim was well known. Her eldest daughter had told her friends that she was going on a family trip with her mother’s fiancé.

Others suggest Lee might have sought brutal revenge for the humiliation he felt over Kim’s demand that he repay all of his debts. This theory, however, fails to explain why he murdered her children as well.

Certain experts say unnamed accomplices might have been involved in the crime. Police are unsure if the man caught on surveillance tape who was loading bags onto a car at Kim’s apartment complex on Feb. 18 and another man two days later parking Kim’s car were the same.

A source close to the case said, “Lee was a little chubby and tall. The guy caught on the Feb. 20 tape appeared slim. We are still analyzing the tapes to verify whether the two men on the tapes were identical.”

Authorities are also investigating if Lee swindled Kim out of more money.

▽ Victims remembered

Kim’s relatives and friends expressed shock and sadness over the brutal murder.

Her friend Cha Gyeong-suk said, “Kim sent me a text message in the morning [on Feb. 18], saying she and her family were going on a trip. Her second daughter was about to apply to college for the second time. I thought they needed some perk-up time.”

Kim’s eldest daughter, 20, was an honor student majoring in musical theatre. On her personal Web homepage, she wrote critiques of recent musicals. She also added, “I saw the future of the Korean musical community. I will hold a wonderful performance in the future.”

A neighbor said, “All three of [Kim’s daughters] were kind and beautiful. They were one of the happiest families until Kim’s husband committed suicide.”