[UPDATED] Yeon Woo Lee, OC Homicide No. 2: Visiting Korean Shot to Death, Possibly Over Business Flap
The Cerritos resident is charged with one felony count of murder with a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a firearm causing death. Currently held at the Central Jail in Santa Ana, Cho could get 50 years to life in state prison for killing 50-year-old South Korean Lee, who was shot once, execution-style, in the back of the head.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Howard Gundy of the Orange County district attorney's homicide unit is prosecuting the case, and his office has said Cho knew Lee since they attended elementary school in South Korea together. Cho, his wife and two children moved to California about seven years ago.
While Lee's wife stayed in South Korea, he came here on vacation beginning in November 2010 and spent some time with Cho and his family. The Anaheim Police Department has surmised a business dispute between the men led to the slaying. A street sweeper came upon Lee's body next to a disabled car in a remote industrial area of the city.
"Cho is accused of taking the victim's identification, tossing it in a nearby dumpster, and then fleeing the scene and returning home to his family," reads an OCDA statement on the case that gives no further clue about a motive.
ORIGINAL POST, JAN. 26, 4:04 P.M.: A street sweeper pulled up to Miraloma Avenue east of Kraemer Boulevard in Anaheim around 4 a.m. Tuesday and discovered a dead man lying in the roadway next to a gray 2007 Toyota Corolla.
Responding officers noticed the man in his 50s had suffered a serious head wound, but did not know exactly what to make of it. A jack was found near him. The Corolla's trunk was open. A tire was in the roadway. Had this fellow hurt himself while changing a tire?
Further investigation pointed to something more sinister.
The county coroner confirmed Yeon Woo Lee, 50, of South Korea, had been shot once in the head.
For reasons the Anaheim Police has not fully gone into, its murder investigation led the department to Beong Kwun Cho, 51, of Cerritos.
"Working around the clock, detectives explored many options and leads," reads a statement from the department's spokesman, Sergeant Rick Martinez. "Their investigation began to center on Beong Kwun Cho. Shortly after midnight this morning, detectives located Mr. Cho and brought him to the Anaheim Police station for questioning."
At around 7 this morning, Cho was arrested on suspicion of murder and booked into the Anaheim Detention Facility.
Here's what cops are saying: Lee had been in the U.S. for about two months for personal and business reasons. He had been living in local motels, and he and Cho knew each other. Though a motive has not been confirmed, it is believed a business dispute prompted Cho to shoot Lee.
Martinez revealed detectives have recovered the handgun they believe was used to kill Lee.