UPDATE, JULY 7, 8:55 A.M.: So a soured business relationship was not the motive for the slaying, according to the Orange County Register’s coverage of opening statements. Deputy District Attorney Scott Simmons reportedly told jurors that Cho’s first story to police was he did not know what happened to Lee, then he conceded to helping his friend commit suicide but make it look like a botched robbery because taking one’s own life is considered shameful in Korean society. Lee’s hotel business back home was failing at the time, the prosecutor added. The mercy killing angle is what Assistant Public Defender Robert Kohler indicated he will employ in mounting Cho’s defense. But Simmons claims the story does not end there, as Cho allegedly cracked under further questioning, admitting he hated his friend and wanted him dead for supposedly raping Mrs. Cho.
ORIGINAL POST, JULY 7, 6:11 A.M.: Opening statements began Wednesday afternoon in the trial of a man who may have executed his childhood friend from South Korea over a business spat.
Beong Kwun Cho, 56, of Cerritos, is charged with a felony count of murder with a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a firearm causing death that, with a conviction, could send him to state prison for 50 years to life.
Cho knew Yeon Woo Lee from the time they attended elementary school in South Korea together through January 2011, when Lee’s body was found dumped in an industrial part of Anaheim.
Around 2003, Cho had moved to California with his wife and two children. Seven years later, Lee’s wife stayed back in Korea while her husband took a vacation to the United States that would include some time in Orange County with his buddy Cho and his family.
But about midnight on Jan. 25, 2011, Cho allegedly shot Lee execution-style once in the back of the head, took the body to an industrial area of Anaheim and left the corpse partially hidden by a disabled car, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s office, which also accuses Cho of having tossed Lee’s identification in a nearby dumpster before returning home to his family.
A street sweeper discovered Lee’s body around 4 the same morning. Following an Anaheim Police Department investigation, Cho was arrested the next day. The grand jury indicted Cho on the rap he faces today.
The OCDA has so far been tight lipped about a motive, although Anaheim Police previously indicated a business dispute between the men may have led to the slaying.