MU police released a photograph Tuesday of the weapon they say was used in the 9-month-old unsolved homicide of an MU researcher, along with more details about a man and vehicle seen close to the scene of the researcher’s death.
Jeong H. Im, a retired MU research professor, was found dead of multiple stab wounds at 12:24 p.m. Jan. 7 in the trunk of his Honda in the Maryland Avenue parking garage.
The car had been set on fire and was parked in the driving lane of the garage’s third level. Police responded after someone used a campus emergency phone to report the fire.
The weapon, found at the scene, is an Old Hickory knife with an 8-inch blade and a 5-inch handle. The model number is QN-758, and the handle bears the trademark “Old Hickory.” The knife was manufactured between 1959 and 1984.
“This photo is being released in the hope that a person may have seen an individual with this or this type of knife prior to or the day of the homicide,” a written statement from MU police said.
Capt. Brian Weimer said police hope to identify the owner and driver of a 1980s red Ford F-10 pickup with a faded black driver’s-side door, damaged front bumper and rear driver’s-side quarter panel that was seen in the garage the day of the slaying. The truck had a tan camper shell with tinted windows when it was seen.
Weimer said the camper shell could have been removed since then, and the dents could have been fixed. He encouraged the public to think broadly about what it might have seen.
The statement also provided an updated description of a person of interest seen in the garage between noon and 1 p.m. the day of the killing — “a slender white male, between 6 feet and 6 feet 2 inches in height, possibly wearing some type of painter’s or drywall mask.” The release described the person as possibly wearing baggy jeans that were faded blue, along with a hooded red sweatshirt and a blue winter coat.
According to the statement, the same person might have been seen without the hood and mask and was identified as having medium-length brown, wavy hair. The release said he might have been carrying a red gas can.
“People may have seen this person prior to or after in the area with or without the gas can and/or painter’s mask,” the release stated. Weimer said the killer might have had burns and cuts on his hands after committing the homicide.
MU raised the reward to $25,000 for information leading to the arrest of the suspect or suspects in Im’s homicide.
The knife identified by police is not sold in Columbia hardware stores, Sears or Wal-Mart, but it is sold on the Internet. . According to knifecenter.com, the Old Hickory knife with an 8-inch blade has a retail value of $8.99.
Weimer said police typically do not release the identification of the murder weapon for fear of misleading the public or harming the prosecution’s case in court. However, Weimer said the FBI and law enforcement groups, which he consulted, encouraged MU police to release the photograph to try to spur further leads.
Weimer said police have collected additional physical evidence that will not be released to the public. He would not comment on reports of bloody footprints at the scene or the movement of Im’s car from its original parking spot.
“We’re sure it’s going to come together,” Weimer said. “It’s just a question of when.”
Since the homicide, new cameras have been added to the garage, and some lighting has been changed. Escort service is available to people walking to their cars in the garage.
“It’s a safe campus, but unfortunately it is incidents like this that remind everyone that crimes can still happen,” Weimer said.
MU police are asking anyone with information pertaining to the homicide to call 573-882-7203. If callers wish to remain anonymous, they may call CrimeStoppers at 573-875-TIPS.