6 people accused of torturing, killing woman lured from South Korea for religious group

The suspects -- including a 15-year-old -- were charged with felony murder.

September 15, 2023, 5:11 PM

A woman found dead in the trunk of a car earlier this week was allegedly lured to the U.S. from South Korea to join a religious organization, then tortured in the basement of a Georgia home, police said.

Six people, including a 15-year-old boy, have been arrested and charged with murder in connection with the woman's death, Gwinnett County police announced on Thursday.

The victim -- who is believed to be in her 20s to mid-30s -- is believed to have moved to the U.S. sometime over the summer to join what the suspects referred to as "Soldiers of Christ," police said.

The deceased victim was found in the trunk of a silver car parked in a parking lot in Duluth, Georgia, police said.
Gwinnett County Police Department

"Apparently the victim was subjected to beatings, malnourishment -- which subsequently resulted in what the medical examiner's office believes was the cause of her death," Cpl. Juan Madiedo, a spokesperson with the Gwinnett County Police Department, said during a press briefing on Thursday.

Police believe the victim starved for several weeks and died sometime in late August. She weighed approximately 70 pounds when she was found on Tuesday, police said. Her body was also burned and wrapped in a blanket, according to the arrest warrants.

The exact cause of death is still under investigation.

A relative of one of the suspects found her body in the trunk of a car parked in a shopping center parking lot in Duluth Tuesday night and called 911, police said. The suspect -- Eric Hyun, 26 -- allegedly asked the family member to retrieve an item for him from the car while he was in the hospital for unspecified injuries, police said.

The ensuing investigation led detectives to a house associated with Hyun in Lawrenceville, where evidence of the beatings was found in the basement, police said.

The victim was allegedly tortured in the basement of a house in Lawrenceville, Georgia.

In addition to Hyun, four other adults -- Gawom Lee, 26; Joonho Lee, 26; Juoonhyum Lee, 22; and Hyunji Lee, 25 -- and a 15-year-old were arrested and charged with felony murder, false imprisonment, tampering with evidence and concealing the death of another, police said.

Police said Friday that they have also secured multiple criminal street gang warrants for each of the suspects.

Georgia law describes a criminal street gang as "any organization, association, or group of three or more persons associated in fact, whether formal or informal, which engages in criminal gang activity," police said.

A court-appointed attorney for Joonho Lee told ABC News he has no comment at this time.

Hyunji Lee's court-appointed attorney, Kenneth Sheppard, told ABC News he will be requesting a preliminary hearing and plans to move forward with that, if she is not indicted before that event.

ABC News has reached out to Gawom Lee's attorney for comment.

Online court records did not include any attorney information for Hyun and Juoonhyum Lee.

Police released the mug shots for 5 of the 6 suspects arrested (the 6th is a juvenile and wasn't released.) From left are: Eric Hyun, Gawom Lee, Hyunji Lee, Juoonhyum Lee, Joonho Lee.
Gwinnett County Police Department

Three of the suspects are brothers, while Hyunji Lee is the girlfriend of one of the suspects, Madiedo said. All live at the home except for Hyun, who at one time lived there, Madiedo said.

Detectives do not believe there are any other victims or suspects, Madiedo said.

The victim was not publicly identified by police, who said Thursday that her family in South Korea had not yet been notified of her death.