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Police Lack Leads in Triple Slaying

May 07, 2003|Li Fellers and K. Connie Kang | Times Staff Writers

The shooting deaths of a 30-year-old mother, her 2-year-old son and a 56-year-old baby-sitter could be linked to a purse the mother lost at church Sunday, domestic strife or business transactions that may have gone wrong, police sources said Tuesday.

"We have no strong leads," said LAPD Capt. Al Michelena, head of the Robbery-Homicide Division. "It could be a variety of things right now."

Michelena declined to be more specific, but sources close to the investigation said detectives are looking at the personal lives of the victims, the missing purse and dealings in a downtown clothing apparel business.

Byung C. Song, whose wife and son were killed, is active in the Korean business community in Los Angeles and is the owner of Talent Fashions, a wholesale company in the garment district.

Police questioned Song but don't consider him a suspect in the shootings Monday night, investigators said. The officers did not describe the business transactions they are exploring, other than to say that they were "complicated."

Song worried when his wife failed to return to the family store Monday afternoon, as planned, after leaving to report the missing purse, a business associate said. Officers said someone who found the purse might have used her address to attempt a home-invasion robbery.

The bound bodies of Chehyun Song, her son and the baby-sitter, Eunsik Min, were found in a bathroom in the Songs' fourth-floor apartment in the 600 block of South Masselin Avenue, just south of the Park La Brea apartment complex.

The discovery was made about 6:30 p.m. by Chehyun Song's mother, who had stopped by for a visit, police said. Neighbors at the Renaissance Luxury Apartments heard her screams and called police, detectives said.

Rick Johnson, who lives about 75 feet from the Song apartment across an open courtyard, said he heard no gunshots or screams.

"Not a peep," Johnson said.

Police said Byung Song and the couple's other son, about 6, arrived at the apartment building as officers were studying the crime scene.

Whoever committed the crimes managed to get through an elaborate security system that includes a network of television cameras. Police are checking the tapes from those cameras, which may take some time.

Each apartment is equipped with a "panic button" that can be pushed to summon guards on duty at the building around the clock. It has not yet been determined whether anyone pushed the button.

Nor was it clear whether the killer or killers forced their way into the apartment and whether the victims fled to the bathroom or were herded there.

Hee Sun Lee, manager of Talent Fashions on South San Pedro Street, said Byung Song told her Monday morning that his wife's purse had been lost a day earlier, apparently while she was at church.

Chehyun Song, an accountant and materials buyer, left the store in the early afternoon, saying that she planned to report the loss to police, Lee said. It was not immediately determined whether she filed a report.

Lee said Byung Song was worried when his wife didn't return and tried repeatedly to reach her on her cell phone and on the phone in their apartment, without success.

According to Lee, Song left the store shortly after 6 p.m., saying he had to pick up their older son at school before going home.

Byung Song returned to the store Tuesday morning and told his sales personnel about the killings, Lee said. Then he left, telling her that he would be gone for about two weeks.

The store sells women's casual wear to buyers and retailers, Lee said. The goods are manufactured at Song's nearby plant.

Talent Fashions opened in February 2002, Lee said. Before that, she said, Song was a partner in Exit Casuals Plus, another apparel business in the mart.

Employees at Exit Casuals declined to comment.

Lee said Song emigrated from Korea about 10 years ago and met his wife in this country. She said business at Talent Fashions has been good.

"He's a very good man, very nice and hard-working," she said.

An employee of the Korean Apparel Manufacturers Assn. in Los Angeles, who asked not to be named, described Song as "your average Korean businessman who did his business like everyone else around here."

"This is a very small area, so if you are out of the ordinary, you stand out," she said.

*

Times staff writers Eric Malnic, Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton contributed to this report.

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