Mysterious Murder of U.S. Student in Korea

A little over a year ago, Kenzi Snider became the first U.S. citizen ever to be extradited to stand trial in South Korea after being charged with and confessing to the murder of a fellow student.

But the country's courts ruled her confession inadmissible and acquitted her twice, and now a single decision from that country's Supreme Court will determine whether or not she will ever return home a free woman.

In the spring of 2001, Snider, then a 19-year-old student at Marshall University in West Virginia, was an exchange student at Keimyung University in Taegu, South Korea. Jamie Penich, 21, a junior from the University of Pittsburgh, was also in that program.

After just two weeks of classes, a group of six students, including Penich and Snider, went to the capital city of Seoul for what was supposed to be a fun weekend trip.

They found a cheap motel in Itaewon, the heart of Seoul's nighttime entertainment, right next to the big U.S. military base. It was St. Patrick's Day when they arrived, and there was a rowdy crowd on the streets.

The group wound up at a bar, hanging out with American G.I.s, and partying long past midnight. Penich and Snider were the last to leave the bar, at around 3:00 am.

Back at their motel, a seedy place frequented by G.I.s and prostitutes, Penich decided to take a shower to sober up before going to bed, Snider said. Snider, who was staying in another room with another roommate, said she checked on Penich before she went to bed.

But the next morning, Penich's roommate made a horrifying discovery. Penich had been brutally beaten to death — stomped so hard that her face was unrecognizable. Some of her teeth were knocked out, and her blood was splattered on the bathroom walls.

Restored Memories?

By February 2002, Penich's body had been returned home and laid to rest in her hometown of Derry, Pa.

Meanwhile, two FBI agents and an officer from the U.S. Army's criminal investigations division, the CID, had contacted Snider to clear up some inconsistencies in her original statement to police in Korea. They met with her in a motel room in Huntington, W. Va.

One of the FBI agents also seemed oddly interested in her dreams, Snider said. "The one dream I had shared was about a train," Snider said. "He said, 'Well, that's interesting, because when a female dreams about a train, it's a sign of sexual conflict.' "

Snider continued the questioning into a second day, when the FBI agent who was interested in her dreams became insistent on proving there was a sexual encounter between her and Penich on that night, she says.

She says the agents discouraged her from contacting an attorney, and to prove her innocence, she agreed to answer more questions.

"He asked me, 'Well, who kissed first?' " Snider said. "I was like, 'Well we didn't kiss.' But I'm thinking, 'They said they have evidence, there must be some reason he's asking this,' I'm thinking, 'Well, I know that I wouldn't kiss her, so well maybe she kissed me first,' and I said, 'Well, she kissed me."

Snider now says this didn't happen. But she says she agreed because she thought the agents were "helping me get my memories back."

A story evolved in which Snider admitted she got angry and killed Penich after Penich tried to unbutton Snider's pants in the hotel bathroom. "I said something like, 'I lift my foot and I bring it down on her face,' " said Snider.

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