August 23, 2000

C.U. Grad's Murder Trial Underway

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A murder trial is currently underway involving two former Cornell students. Edmund Ko ’94 is accused of slaying his former girlfriend, Hyeseung Lynda Hong ’96, a third-year Columbia law student, in her New York City apartment.

The trial began May 31, two years after he allegedly murdered Hong. The homicide is believed to have been a twisted attempt of Ko’s to prove his devotion to his jealous girlfriend of the time, Claudia Seong. Ko is charged with second degree murder and faces up to 25 years in prison.

Hong’s body was found a week after her murder. Driven by growing concerns over Hong’s absence, on March 20, 1998, Christopher Lee, a fellow law student and friend of Hong, went to her apartment and picked the lock. What Lee found was a bloody scene, Hong laying face down in a pile of law briefs in a pool of her own blood.

Hong had met Ko while an undergraduate here on campus. Three years later, the couple broke up. After Hong’s murder, evidence immediately led police to suspect Ko, and he was arrested March 19 at his home that he shared with Seong in New Jersey.

When police arrested Ko for Hong’s murder, he was already on probation. He had been arrested, charged and released on bail in November of 1997 in connection with the stabbing and slashing of a woman he had been reportedly dating earlier in the fall. According to prosecutors involved in the current trial, the twenty-two year old victim was held down by Ko and Seong’s sister while Seong (Ko’s girlfriend at the time of the Hong murder) had repeatedly slashed her face and legs with a box-cutter because Soeng had suspected Ko was cheating on her. Cuts to the scalp even reached the bone. Four months later another woman affilated with Ko lay dead.

An autopsy conducted on Hong stated that her throat had been slashed and that she died from a cut to the juglar vein. The New York City Police Department speculated that Ko allegedly used a razor sharp knife to commit the murder.

Ko’s attorney contends that he was framed by Seong and another man who fled to Korea just before the trial and that Seong, Ko’s girlfriend at the time, is the true murderer with a more realistic motive for murder, jealousy.

However, the prosecutors look more to the hard evidence which includes a phone call made around the corner from Hong’s home near the time of the murder, a partial bloody imprint in Hong’s apartment that can be linked to Ko, and even the fact that during a phone call the alleged night of her death, Hong had hung up with words that her ex-boyfriend had arrived in town.

The past violent events and convictions four months earlier will be a key point in the trial, in order to illustrate Seong had the ability to push Ko to excessive violence, which as prosecutors assert eventually lead to the brutal killing of Hong.

“The crime scene alone will prove to you that Edmund Ko killed her,” explained Ann Prunty, the assistant district attorney on the trial to Reuters North America.

Both sides stated that another key point in the trial would be Ko’s strange relationship with Seong. Prunty described Seong as a manipulative, insecure and intensely jealous women older then Ko by eight years. Both sides characterized her as a women who demanded complete loyalty.

When Seong took the stand she pleaded the fifth amendment 37 times, testifying only to her name. Although Seong had earlier stated in a police report that Ko had confessed the murder to her, she refused to answer any questions pertaining to this. Seong has not been charged in the killing at this date.

Cornellians on campus share sympathy and fear when learning about the case.

“You come here with all these dreams and ambitions that Cornell is supposed to help you achieve, and it’s just frightening to think that something you meet here, on campus can and will end them,” said Nicole Freeman ’02.

Archived article by Julia Macdonald