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A Decades-Long Serial Killer Case Ends With Confession

S. Korea's Lee Chun-jae admitted to 14 murders, but statute of limitations has run out
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 2, 2019 8:49 AM CDT
In this July 1993, photo, South Korean investigators examine the scene following a murder in Hwaseong.   (Yonhap via AP)

(Newser) – Police had only been able to link him to a handful of rapes and murders in South Korea—but a suspected serial killer has just confessed to many more. The New York Times reports that 56-year-old Lee Chun-jae, already in prison for life for raping and killing his sister-in-law, has confessed to nine murders he was suspected of in Hwaesong between 1986 and 1991, in addition to five more rapes and murders there and elsewhere, per police investigator Ban Gi-soo. That's not all: Lee, who used to work for a construction firm, is also said to have come clean on 30 other rapes or attempted rapes. The victims ranged in age from 14 to 71 and were all strangled; some of their bodies had been mutilated with everything from forks and razors to umbrellas.

Lee's confession comes after a decades-long effort to solve the cold cases, which involved 2 million cops and interviews with upward of 21,000 men, and spurred a hit 2003 film. Ban said at a presser that Lee started killing after arriving home from mandatory military service in 1986, and that police are now trying to confirm his confession. Although there are "irregularities" in his accounts, per the Straits Times, police tend to believe him, as he provided hand-drawn maps of some of the crime scenes. His confession came after DNA tied him to several of the murders. "He had a change of heart starting last week after criminal profiling experts developed a rapport with him after nine visits to his prison," Ban said, adding they're now trying to fill in the "gaps" on details. The rub on all of this: The 15-year statute of limitations has expired on these crimes, meaning Lee won't be charged. (Read more South Korea stories.)

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