|On the left is a facial composite of the Hwaseong serial killer drawn up in the 1980s based on witness testimony, and on the right is a high school photo of Lee Chun-jae who was identified recently as the killer based on DNA evidence. / Yonhap|
By Kim Hyun-bin
Lee Chun-jae, who admitted to having committed multiple murders back in the 1980s and 1990s in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province, confessed to police that he was behind the eighth killing, which had been believed to be a copycat crime.
If the 56-year-old's confession is true, this means a man surnamed Yoon, 52, who served close to 20 years of a life sentence for the murder, was wrongfully accused and imprisoned as he claimed.
Yoon is currently in the process of hiring a lawyer to get a retrial and hold the police officers and prosecutors in charge of his case accountable.
On Sept. 16, 1988, Yoon was accused of raping and killing a 13-year-old girl at her house in Hwaseong. The killing was different from the previous seven murders, which were committed in remote fields and the killer bound the victims with their underwear or stockings.
Police found a hair at the scene and confirmed it belonged to someone with the blood type B ― Lee's blood type is O ― and contained cadmium. As a result, police believed the murderer had a job exposing him to heavy metals. DNA testing was unavailable at the time due to the lack of relevant technology.
Yoon, a 22-year-old farming machine repairman who lived near the victim's home, was named a suspect, and he admitted to the crime during police questioning. He was then sentenced to life in prison, and was released on parole in 2009 for good behavior after serving 19 years and six months.
A prison guard at Cheongju Detention Center, where Yoon was incarcerated, and other inmates there recently said that Yoon had consistently maintained he was innocent. According to them, Yoon said he had to make a false confession because the police officers were torturing him, not letting him sleep and assaulting him to the point that he feared for his life.
The guard told a local daily newspaper that Yoon was "naive and clumsy" and that he was an easy target as he was an orphan who did not even attend elementary school. Yoon had no money to hire a lawyer and did not know how to defend himself, he said.
"He still remembers the names of the police officers who tortured him and the prosecutor who indicted him. He talked about this at his appeals trial, but failed because there wasn't enough evidence," said the guard, who helped Yoon get a job after his parole and has been in contact with him ever since.
"Yoon continuously insisted he was innocent from the first day of his imprisonment," the guard said.
Soon after Lee confessed to the crime, the guard said Yoon called him filled with hope that he would be able to prove his innocence.
The guard said Yoon is preparing to request a retrial to prove his innocence and hold the investigators responsible.
Following Lee's confession, police said they recently met Yoon, who insisted he was not guilty of the crime. They said they would look into not only the eighth case but all the crimes Lee has confessed to having committed.