While Jeong Im’s family and friends crowded into a memorial service for the slain MU researcher, the search for a suspect in the case continued Thursday.
After Im’s body was found in the trunk of his 1995 Honda Accord on Jan. 7, MU Police activated the Mid-Missouri Major Case Squad. The squad is typically activated for five days, but MU Police Chief Brian Weimer said he requested and received an extension to keep the squad on the case. He did not know how long the extension would last.
The squad draws officers from several area law enforcement agencies to assist in investigations.
Weimer said MU Police and 28 members of the squad have received 150 leads and are conducting interviews. Weimer would not disclose the number, focus, duration or subjects of the interviews. One of investigators’ top priorities, however, has been retracing Im’s steps and constructing a timeline of how he spent the hours before his death, Weimer said.
No suspects have been named, and no possible motives have been identified.
Jesse Lewis, the service manager at Albert Honda, said Im was at the dealership on the morning of Jan. 7 for an inspection of his white Accord. Lewis said he knew Im, and although the inspection took only 30 minutes, the two men talked for an hour or longer. Lewis didn’t know precisely what time Im arrived but estimated it was between 8 and 9 a.m.
Mark Foecking, who worked with Im in the MU Department of Molecular Microbiology and Heredity, said he saw Im in the department’s lab at about 9 a.m.
Lewis said he thought Im’s car might have failed its inspection, perhaps due to a leaking muffler. At 10 a.m., Im made an appointment to have a leaking muffler fixed at the Custom Muffler store near the intersection of Providence Road and Elm Street, store manager Randy Reed said. The appointment was set for 2 p.m.
Weimer said Im’s body was found shortly before 12:30 p.m. in the trunk of his car, which was on fire and parked in the third-level driving lane of the Maryland Avenue parking garage on the MU campus. He had been stabbed multiple times in the chest.
Investigators are seeking a person of interest described as a man between 6 feet and 6 feet 2, wearing painter’s pants, a dark-blue hooded sweatshirt and a painter’s mask or drywall mask. The man was spotted near the garage around the time of the incident and was seen carrying a gas can.
Dozens of Im’s co-workers, friends and family members gathered Thursday morning for a memorial service in Acuff Auditorium in the Medical Science Building where Im worked. The hour-long service began with a slideshow of photographs set to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Im’s favorite piece of music.
Youn Ju Lee, whom Im mentored while she was in medical school, described Im as a man who had high standards and never shied away from helping his students meet them.
“His questions were not easy, but his answers were simple and crystallized,” she said.
Im’s daughter Jean also spoke at the memorial, thanking her father’s co-workers for their support. She described her father as a “paragon of benevolence and wisdom” and invoked a family moniker she said Im wore proudly — the “walking dictionary.”
H.D. Kim, a longtime friend of Im’s, also spoke at the service, as did Mark McIntosh, the chairman of the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, and Kim Wise, a professor emeritus in the department who worked closely with Im in the department’s lab. All three men praised Im’s intellect and work ethic.
“Our university lost a scholar and a sage elder,” Kim said.