COLUMBIA — For nearly five years, the MU Police Department has strived to solve one of the grisliest and highest-profile murders in campus history. A local blogger now wants to give it a try.
Mike Martin announced this week on his blog, The Columbia Heart Beat, that he is launching his own investigation into the 2005 murder of MU professor Jeong Im.
Martin said he was inspired by a story he read recently in The New York Times about a blogger who helped with a murder investigation in Florida. In that case, the citizen journalist wrote about new evidence on his blog and renewed attention to the crime.
Martin thinks the Im case is due for that type of investigation, which he said would not only be of interest to readers but would also be of service to the community.
“This murder case stands out like nothing else,” Martin said. “It was very high-profile and attention-getting. That makes it very interesting but also very important to get it solved.”
The body of the 72-year-old microbiologist was found on the afternoon of Jan. 7, 2005, in the trunk of his car in the Maryland Avenue parking garage. Im had been stabbed multiple times in the chest, and the car had been set on fire.
The MU Police Department initially received assistance investigating the case from the Mid-Missouri Major Case Squad, a collection of officers from various law enforcement agencies. The squad completed its investigation in less than two weeks without identifying a suspect. The department also received assistance from Naval Criminal Investigative Service federal agents.
In October 2005, the MU Police Department released a photograph of the knife that investigators think was used to kill Im, as well as a description of a person of interest, who was described as a slender white man between 6-feet and 6-feet-2-inches tall.
Since then the case has become the longest unsolved homicide at MU. Capt. Brian Weimer of the MU Police Department said it’s still an active, open investigation.
“It’s on the minds of officers daily,” Weimer said. He added that the lead investigator is still working on the case and that MU is still offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
As for Martin’s investigation, Weimer hadn’t heard about it and was hesitant to comment. “Hopefully they’ll share information with us if they get it to help out with the investigation,” he said.
Martin is critical of how local law enforcement has handled — and news media have reported on — the case. He said there were holes in the investigation and coverage of the crime that he intends to address.
Martin revealed few specific details about how he will approach the project. He envisions a long-term “forum investigation” in which people share information and use the power of the Internet to work collaboratively.
Operating outside what he sees as the constraints of traditional news media, Martin intends to engage readers and collect and catalog as much information as possible. He also thinks the investigation could be an opportunity to introduce a new donation feature on his blog, so that readers who value the content can contribute financially to its production.
Judging by the response Martin has received from the community, he thinks he might be on to something. The original blog post on the issue has received 66 responses and 680 views since Tuesday.
Some current and former members of the MU community said that though they hadn’t yet heard of Martin’s plans, they think any contribution to the investigation could be helpful.
Former MU professor Henry Liu, who has been critical of the handling of the investigation, said that many people have likely forgotten about the murder. He said he worries that it could become a “cold case.”
Similarly, Kim Wise, a professor emeritus of molecular microbiology and immunology and a former colleague of Im’s, said he’s disappointed that the case still hasn’t been solved.
Martin said he doesn’t want the Im homicide to be forgotten.
“An unsolved murder like this sends a message that criminals can get away with this,” he said. “I don’t like that. Why is that right?”