Naval Criminal Investigative Service federal agents — including a renowned “cold case” forensic specialist — have been assisting the MU Police Department in its investigation into the slaying of Jeong Im since early February, Police Chief Jack Watring said Wednesday.
The body of the MU microbiology researcher was found in the trunk of his burning car on the third level of the Maryland Avenue campus parking structure on Jan. 7.
Saying that the investigation is ongoing, Watring would not comment on how many agents were assisting MU police or why a local forensic specialist was not sufficient.
NCIS federal agents normally investigate only cases with a U.S. Navy personnel connection, but sometimes they are called upon just for expertise, said NCIS Spokesman Paul O’Donnell. The agency’s mission is to prevent terrorism, to protect secrets and to investigate felonies affecting the Navy, he said.
O’Donnell said he was aware of only one NCIS agent involved in the MU investigation — Lou Eliopulos, author of the “Death Investigator’s Handbook,” whose job title at NCIS is senior homicide investigations analyst.
Eliopulos may have been referred by other NCIS agents to MU police, O’Donnell said.
He said Eliopulos’ work with the MU police is independent from his work with NCIS.
Watring met Eliopulos through a friend in the Florida forensic community and invited him to speak to MU investigators after he spoke at a Missouri Coroners’ and Medical Examiners’ Association training session in Jefferson City on March 16, Watring said.
Eliopulos went through the case for about six hours with MU investigators, Watring said.
Capt. Brian Weimer said there have been developments in the case but nothing that can be released.
Good investigations take time, he said, and citing the murder of Columbia Daily Tribune Sports Editor Kent Heitholt as an example, said it is possible the case would take years to solve. The Heitholt case remained unsolved for two years until one of the killers talked about the slaying to associates.
Im’s wife and daughter could not be reached for comment.
Weimer said the investigation into Im’s slaying remained a top priority of the police department. The department is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the suspect or suspects involved in the killing.
Police are still looking for “a person of interest” between 6 feet and 6 feet 2 inches tall who was seen in the area of Maryland Avenue between noon and 1 p.m. on Jan. 7. The individual is believed to have been carrying some type of gas can and may have been wearing a painter’s or drywall mask, police said.
Anyone with information should call MU police at 882-7203 or CrimeStoppers at 875-TIPS.