LAWRENCEVILLE — Ki Song Kim recently received $6,000 from the Chois in order to buy a car. The Duluth couple had also given him his job back at their Norcross restaurant supply business.
Police believe Kim and another man — an unidentified, yet-to-be-apprehended second suspect — repaid them by taking their lives.
Gwinnett County Police Det. David Brucz testified Tuesday that Kim, 45, admitted to being at the home of Sun Hee and Young Chan Choi while they were stabbed to death on the evening of July 27, a grisly scene flooded with blood on the foyer and kitchen walls, door knobs, light switches and blinds. It’s the second man at the scene, the one Kim has reportedly pinned the actual murders on, who remains a mystery.
According to the neighbor who was watering her grass that night, two men were in the white vehicle that backed into the driveway of 2578 Worrall Hill Way at about 9:30 p.m. They rang the doorbell and Sun Hee Choi answered.
One of them, believed to be Kim, produced a box of apples — a Korean custom —and said something along the lines of, “My mother told me to bring this by.” The duo was asked inside.
After just a couple minutes, Brucz testified, the neighbor heard a scream that sounded “like a sick dog.” The white vehicle was gone from the driveway by the time a brother-in-law called by the neighbor peered into the front window.
Young Chan Choi was discovered in the foyer, stabbed multiple times in the chest with a four- or five-inch knife, Brucz said. He also had lacerations on his head and bruising on his back, believed to be from some type of baton or other blunt object. Sun Hee Choi was in the kitchen with her throat cut “ear to ear,” her voice box and a major artery severed, and similar stab wounds to her chest.
Upstairs, dresser drawers were pulled out and overturned, the lock broken on a chest. There was no blood in those rooms, and neither police nor family members are sure what, if anything, was stolen. Investigators later discovered $100,000 cash hidden on the underside of a basement table.
Bloody footprints led from the front door out into the driveway and, in less than 24 hours, investigators tied Kim to the scene.
The aforementioned box of apples, bearing the logo of Asian supermarket Assi, still sat on the coffee table. Using the barcode, police were able to obtain video footage of Kim purchasing the fruit less than two hours before the murder at the Pleasant Hill Road store. He spent about three minutes inside the store, Brucz said.
Separately, Duluth police responded to an alert Brucz had put out asking to be notified if any Asian males visited local hospitals with hand lacerations, which are typical of stabbing suspects. Kim turned up at Gwinnett Medical Center-Duluth with a tendon cut on his right hand, claiming (and later recanting) that he had been robbed by an Hispanic man in the parking lot of a nearby Kroger.
Brucz was executing a search warrant at the Chois’ Norcross restaurant supply business, Best Supply, when he got that call and noticed Kim’s name on a roster of employees.
“I was excited to say the least,” Brucz said Tuesday.
Since then, investigators have discovered three calls from Kim to Young Chan Choi on the day of the murders, including a two-minute call just after 5 p.m.
Though his story reportedly changed multiple times, Kim allegedly confessed to being at the house with a friend when that friend, whose identity hasn’t been verified, “started stabbing” Sun Hee Choi. Kim reportedly claimed to have tussled with the friend — earning the wound on his hand — before relinquishing and merely watching the murders.
Brucz said there was “definitely an altercation or a fight” in the foyer area where Young Chan Choi’s body was found, but he did not ascribe that to Kim’s version of the story.
Gwinnett County police have said they are looking at the likelihood of a second suspect, though few details have been released.
“It’s fair to say there are people we haven’t eliminated from suspicion,” spokesman Cpl. Jake Smith said Tuesday, “but we aren’t close to making additional charges.”
The neighbor who first spotted the men entering the Chois’ home was able to give only a vague description: two Asian men, likely in their 40s, with “thicker” builds.
“She said she was very nervous about the whole incident,” Brucz said.
The bloody footprints in the driveway did not match any shoes that authorities were able to uncover at Kim’s apartment, Brucz said, and the white vehicle seen in the driveway did not match the gold Nissan Pathfinder that the Chois reportedly helped Kim buy.
Kim has been charged with two counts apiece of murder and aggravated assault, all bound over to superior court Tuesday by Magistrate Judge Gene Cantrell. He is being held without bond at the Gwinnett County jail.