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The remains of an Arizona State University engineering professor who’d been missing for nearly four months turned up in a landfill outside Phoenix and two arrests have been made in the case, authorities said.
Earlier this month, investigators positively identified the remains as Junseok Chae, who vanished on March 25, according to a statement issued by Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
Javian Ezell and Gabrielle Austin, both 18, are accused of robbing and murdering the 46-year-old professor.
Chae was reported missing to university police on March 25 after not showing up to work at Arizona State University. Five days later, the academic’s vehicle turned up in Louisiana. Ezell and Austin were allegedly in possession of it. Shreveport police arrested the two teenagers.
Ezell and Austin allegedly confessed they had originally intended to rob Chae.
“The suspects admitted that they were actually going to rob him and they said a struggle ensued and then obviously he was murdered,” Maricopa County Sheriff’s Sgt. Joaquin Enriquez told Oxygen.com.
Chae was likely killed near Carefree Highway and 7th Street in Maricopa County, according to law enforcement. Evidence recovered from the scene led authorities to believe that Ezell and Austin had disposed of the engineering professor in a dumpster.
“They corroborated that information,” Enriquez added. “We found evidence there linking them.”
Beginning in mid-May, search crews scoured Northwest Regional Landfill near Surprise, Arizona, about 30 miles northwest of Phoenix.
On July 17, Chae’s remains, along with “related evidence” were found and positively identified by the Maricopa County Medical Examiner, authorities said. Ezell and Austin later were charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery, and theft of means of transportation.
The pair have since been extradited back to Arizona. The manner and cause of death in Chae’s suspected murder is still pending, authorities said.
Chae was an associate dean at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. He joined Arizona State University as an assistant professor in 2005. He authored hundreds of journal articles on an array of subjects ranging from pulmonary diseases to miniaturized biomedical wireless sensor systems and genetic circuits. Chae holds a number of U.S. patents.
He studied at Korea University in South Korea where he received a bachelor’s degree in metallurgical engineering in 1998. In the early 2000s, Chae obtained master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan.
“We are saddened by the loss of ASU community member Junseok Chae,” a spokesperson for Arizona State University said in a statement sent to Oxygen.com. “Our condolences go out to professor Chae’s family and friends.”
Former students described Chae as a “top-notch professor.”
“He was a really nice man and really cared about the students' learning,” a former student wrote on Reddit.
Ezell and Austin are each being held on a $1 million bond, according to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
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