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Former neighbor held in 2003 triple slaying

March 19, 2009|Richard Winton and Victoria Kim

Based in part on newly acquired DNA evidence, authorities Wednesday charged a former neighbor with murder in the 2003 slayings of a woman, her 2-year-old son and his nanny.

Robin Kyu Cho, 50, was arrested Monday by detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department's Robbery-Homicide Division and arraigned Wednesday afternoon in a downtown courtroom.

Cho, who was unshaven, entered a not guilty plea through his attorney.

Though it appeared that the suspect's trail had grown cold, DNA samples taken from an unrelated criminal conviction allegedly linked Cho to the 2003 killings in the Mid-City district.

Last June, he was convicted of grand theft in a Ponzi scheme, authorities said. A sample of his DNA was taken while he was in custody in that case and the sample matched one from the scene of the slayings, authorities said.

LAPD Det. Brian McCartin said investigators were still seeking the motive for the May 5, 2003, shootings of Chi Hyon Song, 30; her 2-year-old son, Hyun Woo Song; and his 56-year-old nanny, Eun Sik Min. McCartin said that the investigation continues and that investigators have not ruled out other participants in the killings.

He said Cho lived in the same Masselin Avenue apartment building as the Songs. Officials say the suspect also parked in a space next to theirs in the same underground parking structure.

No forced entry to the victims' apartment was found and whoever committed the crimes managed to avoid an elaborate security system that included a network of television cameras, authorities said.

The victims were discovered by Song's mother, Cosmos Chang. Her screams prompted neighbors to call police.

Chi Hyon Song was the wife of Byung C. Song, a prominent member of the Korean American business community and owner of Talent Fashions, a wholesale firm in the garment district.

A man who answered Chang's phone Wednesday said the family did not know Cho, but declined further comment.

Kris Kim, Min's daughter, said she was glad to hear of a breakthrough after so many years.

"Each time [detectives] were saying, we're very close, we're very close, but it's been five years," said Kim, who was reached Wednesday at her home in Northern California.

Los Angeles County district attorney's spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said dogged detective work by McCartin and others led to Cho's apprehension.

In June 2006, Cho was arrested and charged with defrauding Korean American investors of as much as $2.5 million between 1998 and December 2002.

He was ultimately convicted of grand theft in June 2008 and was sentenced to 25 days in jail and five years' probation, authorities said.

In the murder case, prosecutors are alleging a special circumstance of multiple murders, making Cho subject to the death penalty.

The district attorney's office will decide whether to seek the death penalty or life without parole for Cho as his case moves closer to trial.

Cho remains in custody.

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richard.winton@latimes.com

victoria.kim@latimes.com

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