Prime Suspect in 1997 Murder Faces Extradition from U.S.

The prime suspect in the murder of a university student in Itaewon, Seoul 14 years ago has been caught in the U.S. and is undergoing extradition proceedings. The Justice Ministry on Monday said Arthur Patterson, the then-17-year-old son of a U.S. Forces Korea civilian employee, is accused of stabbing Cho Jung-pil, then a 23-year-old student at Hongik University, nine times in the toilet of a hamburger restaurant in Itaewon in April 1997.

Edward Lee, a Korean-American who was 18 at the time, was at the scene with Patterson, was accused and tried for the murder, but the Supreme Court acquitted him in September 1999 due to insufficient evidence. Patterson, who was only indicted for possession of lethal weapons, was released in a special amnesty in August 1998 and left for the U.S. at the end of August 1999, just before Lee was cleared.  

Right after the amnesty, Cho's family filed another complaint against Patterson and the investigation was reopened. However, the indictment was dropped in October 2002 because Patterson was out of the country.

But when public opinion soured after the film "Where the Truth Lies" based on the murder was released in 2009, public prosecutors requested Patterson's extradition to the U.S. at the end of that year.

Patterson was arrested by U.S. authorities in May and has since been in detention. The extradition case is being heard by a Californian court. Korean prosecutors believe that there is a high chance that it will be successful.

They believed Patterson is the prime suspect because Cho's blood was found on his clothes in a DNA test and Lee testified that he saw Patterson stab Cho.

The murder took place 14 years and six months ago, just six months shy of the 15-year statute of limitation for murder. But under the Criminal Procedure Law, the statute of limitations freezes the day a suspect flees overseas, leaving more than 10 years in this case.

"It's hard to make any predictions because extradition hearings can take a very long time in the U.S., and we don't know what the Californian court will decide," a prosecution spokesman said. "But we hope that Patterson will be extradited and punished in Korea."

englishnews@chosun.com / Oct. 11, 2011 13:14 KST