Police were seeking a “person of interest” Saturday in connection with the slaying of a 72-year-old researcher in MU’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology.
Jeong Im was found Friday afternoon in the trunk of his Honda Accord in the Maryland Avenue parking garage. He had been stabbed in the chest and his car was on fire.
Capt. Brian Weimer of the MU Police Department said someone used an emergency phone in the garage to call the department and report a burning car on the third level. Shortly before 12:30 p.m., MU police relayed the call to the Columbia Fire Department. Fire Marshal Steve Sapp called the fire “minor” and said firefighters needed only a fire extinguisher to douse the blaze.
Weimer declined to say whether police recovered any materials that could have been used to ignite Im’s car.
After putting out the fire, firefighters opened the trunk and found Im’s body. Saying that the investigation was ongoing, Weimer declined to say what items were removed from the scene or whether police believe Im was killed in the garage.
After an autopsy Saturday morning, the cause of death was determined to be multiple stab wounds.
Im worked part time for the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the Medical Sciences Building near the garage. Department Chairman Mark McIntosh said he saw Im in the department’s laboratory Friday morning, but he did not know when he left.
Jina Yoo, who knew Im as part of Columbia’s small and close-knit Asian community, said he had coffee at 11:30 a.m. every day with other Korean faculty members. He missed that appointment Friday.
“He didn’t show up,” she said. “That’s kind of a big thing.”
McIntosh said Im came to MU in 1987 and went to work in the Department of Pharmacology. He said Im had worked in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology for about 10 years. He had retired, but came back to work part time.
“He was a lot of fun to have around the department, very wise, very helpful,” McIntosh said.
“I don’t know what to make of (Im’s death). I can’t imagine what happened.”
He said he didn’t think Im would have had any enemies.
“I’m left with the only conclusion in my mind, that it was some random act,” he said.
Investigators did not know whether Im had been robbed and did not indicate any possible motives for the slaying but said they were looking for an individual seen near the garage. The man is 6 feet to 6 feet 2 and was wearing what was described as a painter’s or drywall mask. Investigators did not release any further details.
Weimer said he hoped the person who called university police to report the automobile fire would contact police, for he or she did not provide a name or contact information.
Police ask anyone with information to call 882-7203 or Crime Stoppers at 875-TIPS.
Ferdous Al-Faruque contributed to this report.