LOS ANGELES – One man was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole and a second — who unsuccessfully tried to withdraw his guilty plea — was ordered to spend 125 years to life in prison for murdering five people with a baseball bat and samurai sword in a Quartz Hill home in 2008.
“These crimes were hideous … They were brutal beyond belief,” Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler said Friday before sentencing Jae Shim, 46, to life without the possibility of parole, and Steve Kwon, 45, to five consecutive 25-year-to-life terms for the June 23, 2008, stabbing and bludgeoning deaths.
The judge said that “evil” was in the courtroom and was “dressed in blue” jail clothes.
The two were charged in the killings of Shim’s 34-year-old ex-wife, Jenny Young Park; her daughter, Jamie, 13; her 11-year-old son, Justin; Park’s cousin, Joseph Ciganek, a 60-year-old NASA engineer, and Park’s boyfriend, Si Young Yoon, also 34.
All of the victims but Yoon were found dead inside the home, where a fire had been set.
Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman told the judge that information recently provided by Shim helped authorities to track down Yoon’s remains, which had been dumped in a bag in Mexico. Yoon’s remains — which had been discovered and buried inside a numbered box in a mass grave — were subsequently exhumed and returned to his family.
Shim had been facing a potential death sentence when he pleaded guilty Feb. 4 to five counts of murder and one count of arson of an inhabited dwelling, along with admitting the special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder while lying in wait.
Kwon pleaded guilty to the murders just as his trial was getting underway in July, then subsequently asked the judge to allow him to withdraw his guilty plea based on his claim that he is innocent.
“Your protestation of innocence is so hollow, so false,” the judge told Kwon in refusing his request.
Through a Korean interpreter, Yoon’s mother, Ok-Soon Yoon, called her son the “pride and joy of my life.”
“That child will be in my heart forever, but the pain will be there as well,” she said tearfully, noting that Shim and Kwon “even actually attempted to frame my son for the killing of four people” and then dumped his body in Mexico.
“Over seven years of time, I had no idea what happened to my son,” said the victim’s mother, who left her son’s room untouched. “Now I have no choice of accepting the fact that he is gone and dead.”
Pointing at her brother’s killers, Yoon’s youngest sister, SiJeong Yoon, said, “You deserve to die!”
Another of his sisters, Si Hee Schumacher, called her brother her “guardian angel,” and said it was “so unfair” what Shim and Kwon had done to her family.
The children’s aunt said she wondered what state of mind the men would have been in to kill “two innocent children” and said she wanted them to know how much pain and sorrow they had caused. She also said she was stunned by Kwon’s claim of innocence.
Shim and Kwon went armed with a baseball bat and Samurai sword to the home, with Kwon bashing the occupants with a baseball bat and Shim finishing them off with a Samurai sword, the prosecutor said.
The two inadvertently left their weapons behind, and then drove Yoon’s body to Mexico, where it was dumped over the edge of a ravine, before the two got lost and were turned over covered in cuts and other injuries to U.S. authorities at the border, Silverman said.
Outside court after Shim’s plea, the prosecutor said Shim’s motive for the killings was “jealousy, power, control and a lot of anger” against his ex- wife and others related to her. Silverman described Shim and Kwon as childhood friends from Korea.
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