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Mystery of 3 Miracle Mile Killings Deepens

A victim's missing purse is found in a church. Police say the deaths may be tied to the purse, possible domestic strife or business transactions.

May 08, 2003|K. Connie Kang and Richard Winton | Times Staff Writers

The mystery surrounding the shooting deaths of a 30-year-old woman, her 2-year-old son and a baby-sitter in a Miracle Mile apartment intensified Wednesday when the mother's missing purse turned up at the church where she had lost it.

Church officials said nothing was obviously missing from the purse, which was found in a choir loft pew at Berendo Street Baptist Church in Koreatown about 5:30 a.m. Wednesday.

A few hours before her death Monday afternoon, Chehyun Song told co-workers that she apparently had left the purse at the church Sunday.

Jung-Hi Kim, the church secretary, said a member of the congregation found the purse in a dark section of a choir loft where it was not easy to see, so it may have been there the whole time or may have been taken and returned.

The church is open from 5 a.m. to as late as 11 p.m.

Kim said the purse contained Song's apartment keys and wallet, as well as credit cards and money.

Detectives say the killings could be linked to the purse, possible domestic strife or business transactions that may have gone wrong, but added that there are no strong leads.

Byung C. Song, whose wife and son were killed, is active in the Korean business community and owns Talent Fashions, a garment district wholesale firm where his wife also worked.

The bound bodies of Chehyun Song, her youngest son and the baby-sitter, Eunsik Min, 56, were found in a bathroom of the Songs' fourth-floor apartment in a 150-unit complex.

The discovery was made by Song's mother, whose screams prompted neighbors to call police.

Police said Byung Song and another son, about 6 years old, arrived at the home as officers were studying the crime scene. Police said they questioned him but don't consider him a suspect.

Kim said that on Sunday, after a worship service on the second-floor sanctuary where the loft is, Chehyun Song walked downstairs with a large tote bag in which she often carried the purse.

Song set the bag down, and after returning from a restroom, told other members of the congregation that the purse was missing from the bag, Kim said. After looking in vain, she left for home.

The next day, Song told associates at Talent Fashions that she was leaving work to file a police report about the purse. A few hours later, her mother, identified by friends as Cosmos Chang, found the three bodies at the Song apartment.

Police said they have no records indicating that the report was ever filed.

Cosmos Chang and the baby-sitter were close friends and both attended Glendale Korean United Methodist Church in Glendale, said the Rev. Jonathan Lee, pastor. Lee said the friendship led to Min's job as a baby-sitter.

Lee said Min was a deacon at the church and Chang serves as a lay pastor of visitation.


Times staff writer Eric Malnic contributed to this report.

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