Witness testifies that Patterson killed Korean in Itaewon murder case

November 4, 2015

SEOUL (Yonhap) — A Korean-American, who was at the scene of the murder of a South Korean student in 1997, testified on Wednesday that his then-friend killed the victim.

Edward Lee, 36, took the witness stand at the Seoul Central District Court, where he testified through an interpreter that he saw Arthur Patterson kill the victim.

“He (Patterson) suddenly started stabbing Mr. Cho. I was so shocked, I turned around,” Lee said on the witness stand. “I remember Mr. Cho trying to hit Arthur with his right hand, I believe. Then I saw Arthur keep on stabbing Mr. Cho.”

Patterson is suspected of stabbing college student Cho Joong-pil multiple times at a Burger King in the popular foreigner district of Itaewon in central Seoul. He denied the charges, saying Lee committed the crime.

Lee was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment by lower courts in 1998, but was acquitted by the Supreme Court the following year for a lack of evidence.

On Wednesday, changing many of the statements he made when he was investigated as a defendant, Lee said he “was constantly threatened by the prosecutors.”

He said he was not provided with an interpreter throughout the whole process of the investigation and claimed he was coerced into signing and putting a thumbprint on his statement records.

“At the police department on the first day, they interrogated me for 17 hours and they did not let me sleep. They threatened me. They would not let me go until I put sign and thumbprint on all of my statements,” he said.

“I did not understand fully any questions in any investigations from the police station to the prosecution,” Lee added.

At the time, Patterson, who is half Korean, was in Seoul as a dependent of a civilian worker with the U.S. military. He was under investigation when he fled the country in 1999. His departure was made possible after law enforcement authorities mistakenly did not extend his foreign travel ban.

Patterson was indicted for the murder in November 2011 and was extradited last month to South Korea.