Five adults and a teenager were arrested on murder charges after the decomposing body of a female was discovered in the trunk of a car outside a Korean spa called Jeju Sauna in Duluth, Georgia.
Investigators say that the victim had been starved and beaten for weeks and was in such bad condition that detectives initially had a difficult time determining the victim’s gender.
Police say that the shocking discovery was made after one of the suspects, who was in hospital, asked a family member to collect something from the car when the grim discovery was made and the police were called.
The discovery sparked a homicide investigation and detectives believe the victim moved to the US from South Korea over the summer to join a religious group called Soldiers of Christ.
Here’s what we know.
How was the body discovered?
Investigators claim that Eric Hyun, 26, parked a silver Jaguar sedan outside of Jeju Sauna on 12 September before calling a family member to pick him up, police said.
That family member then drove the 26-year-old to an Atlanta area hospital “due to unrelated injuries.”
While he was in the hospital, Mr Hyun asked his relative to retrieve something for him from the car; that’s when the family member noticed “what appeared to be a deceased body in the trunk,” prompting the relative to call 911.
This 911 report launched an investigation.
Gwinnett County detectives then searched a home “associated with” Mr Hyun in Lawrenceville, allegedly finding evidence to suggest the basement of the home was where the crime took place, officials wrote.
Police are now investigating the death as a homicide.
Who are the suspects?
Six people have been arrested and charged in connection to the death, police said on Thursday 14 September.
Five adults — Eric Hyun, 26, Juoonhyum Lee, 22, Joonho Lee, 26, Hyunji Lee, 25, and Gawon Lee, 26 — have been arrested and charged with felony murder, false imprisonment, tampering with evidence and concealing a death, according to police.
A 15-year-old minor was also arrested.
Police added that the suspects “referred to themselves as belonging to ‘Soldiers of Christ.’”
“Detectives believe all suspects are currently in custody, and there are no outstanding individuals,” officials added.
Who was the victim?
Due to the body’s decomposed state, investigators couldn’t initially identify the victim’s gender, police previously told WSB-TV.
Police have said the victim is a female, but her identity has not been released yet as her next of kin lives outside of the US and have not yet been officially notified.
The victim, investigators discovered, seemed to have moved from South Korea to the US over the summer for the “purpose of joining a religious organization.”
She appeared to have been starved and beaten for weeks, police added. As the victim weighed only 70 pounds at the time of her death, the Medical Examiner’s Office believes malnourishment could be a contributing factor, officials wrote. Still, her exact cause of death is being investigated.
Police previously said they believed that the victim could have known or been related to the suspects.
Where was the body found?
Although the body was found in the parking lot outside of Jeju Sauna, the business appears to be completely unrelated to the incident.
The owner of Jeju Sauna told Fox 5 about the surveillance video; the footage captured a man pulling up to the spa in the Jaguar alongside a Mercedes on Tuesday morning. The owner added that the man looked in the Jaguar trunk before getting into the Mercedes and taking off.
Later that night, the owner told the outlet, the video showed the Mercedes returning — just as police arrived at the scene. There was a foul odour from the trunk, the owner added, suggesting that the body had been there for a while.
Jeju Sauna said in a statement that the incident had “absolutely nothing to do with” the business, but merely happened in the parking lot outside it.
“The safety and well-being of our customers have always been our utmost priority,” the statement said. “We are fully cooperating with local law enforcement authorities who are currently investigating the matter. We are confident that they will bring those responsible to justice swiftly.”