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[Newsmaker] Stalker, murderer of three sentenced to life in prison

Prosecutors asked for death penalty

Kim Tae-hyun speaks to the media at a police station in Seoul on April 9. (Yonhap)
Kim Tae-hyun speaks to the media at a police station in Seoul on April 9. (Yonhap)
A South Korean man who murdered three women in the same family was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday, with the court concluding that the crime had been premeditated and planned in advance.

The Seoul Northern District Court passed the sentence against Kim Tae-hyun, 25. He was indicted in April and later convicted of murder, theft, harassment, breaking and entering, and misusing communications networks.

Kim was arrested at the victims’ home in Nowon-gu, northeastern Seoul, in March, days after he killed a woman he had stalked as well as her mother and younger sister.

“It rightfully makes sense to believe that (Kim) was determined and planned to murder the whole family until the very last moment,” the court said in its ruling.

“The defendant chose the victims’ home as the site of the crime and visited the residence at 5:35 p.m. even knowing that the family members arrive home at around 10 p.m. And he was already aware of that he will have to encounter anyone in the family for his crime.”

On the day of the crime, police said, Kim disguised himself as a delivery person so he could enter the victims’ home, and then he killed the younger sister of the woman he was stalking, who was home at the time. He waited for the other two victims to arrive home and stabbed them to death upon their arrival later the same day, police said.

Kim and the woman he stalked had become acquainted through an online game, and he committed his crimes after she cut off contact.

The court said Kim had not hesitated to commit his crimes and had prepared a knife in advance.

But the court rejected the prosecution’s request for the death penalty, saying Kim had acknowledged most of his crimes and had no serious criminal record prior to that day.

The defendant had also submitted a statement saying he deeply regretted his crimes, “even though it is not so sure whether the statement came from the bottom of his heart,” the court added.

Prosecutors requested the death penalty for Kim last month in their closing arguments, saying “there is no room for consideration of punishment other than a death sentence.” Kim premeditated his “ruthless murders” and showed “extreme disregard for human life,” they said.

Kim apologized to the victims’ family at the time and said his “heart ached for the victims.” Kim’s personal information was disclosed in April due to the seriousness of the crimes and high public interest in the case.

In his first public appearance after the arrest, Kim apologized before reporters who gathered outside a police station in northern Seoul, saying he felt “tremendously guilty for opening my eyes shamelessly, breathing and even being alive.”

But his apology was denounced as a strategy to get a lighter penalty, as the police said Kim had planned the crime at least a week in advance, searching online for killing methods and attempting to learn when his victims would arrive home.

Members of the victims’ family said after the ruling that they would ask the prosecution to appeal the sentence, as they believe Kim deserves to be sentenced to death for his crimes. They said life imprisonment is too light a penalty for a murderer who destroyed a happy family.

Kim’s defense told reporters that his side had not decided whether to appeal his sentence, as Kim had made no comments thus far on the matter.

By Ko Jun-tae (