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Crime News Cold Cases

Woman Found "Wrapped with Plastic and Duct Tape" Identified 35 Years After Her Mysterious Death

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has identified a 1988 cold case death victim as Chong Un Kim, 35 years after her body was found in a suitcase in a dumpster. 

By Elisabeth Ford
A police handout of Chong Un Kim

The identity of a woman found in a Georgia dumpster 35 years ago is now known thanks to genealogy technology, authorities revealed this week.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced Monday that the human remains found in Jenkins County on February 14, 1988, belong to a woman named Chong Un Kim, who was 26 years old at the time her body was discovered.

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According to the bureau, Kim was originally from Korea and moved to the U.S. in 1981. She lived in Hinesville, Georgia until her death.

Where and when was Chong Un Kim's body found?

“On the afternoon of Sunday, February 14, 1988, the GBI received a request from the Jenkins County Sheriff’s Office to assist with a death investigation,” the bureau stated this week. “The victim, wrapped with plastic and duct tape, was found inside a large, nylon suitcase that had been placed in a dumpster just north of Millen, GA in Jenkins County.”

What did Chong Un Kim die of?

Authorities concluded Kim had been dead for four days to a week before her body was discovered. Her cause of death was asphyxiation, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

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In a decades-long investigation, detectives worked to compare the body's dental records and fingerprints with missing persons around the country. A composite sketch was also created and sent out to the public in hopes that someone would recognize the victim's face.

A Composite sketch of Chong Un Kim

“The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NAMUS) opened a case. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) also created and disseminated a computer-generated sketch,” the GBI said in the release.

The evidence was eventually resubmitted to the GBI Crime Lab for further testing with the advancements in DNA technology. Analysts from the lab recovered DNA from the items submitted, but the profiles were ineligible to be entered into the Combined DNA Index System, otherwise known as CODIS, the GBI stated.

In 2023, the bureau began working with the Texas-based genealogy company Othram Inc., a pioneer in Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing, and sent the 35-year-old forensic evidence to their lab for further testing.

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“Based on the DNA, a genealogical search produced investigative leads that led to Kim’s identification,” the bureau’s statement read. “The GBI notified Kim’s family in October 2023 about the identification.

In a Facebook post, the GBI said, “There is still work to be done to solve the mystery surrounding Kim’s death, and we will work relentlessly to bring justice and closure to her family.

While there's still a lot to unravel, Jenkins County Sheriff Robert Oglesby told WJBF-TV that “it’s still a good feeling to take one off the cold case list.”

The GBI requests that anyone who may have known Kim, or who has any additional information about this case, to contact them at 912-871-1121. Anonymous tips can also be submitted by calling 1-800-597-TIPS (8477), online at gbi.georgia.gov/submit-tips-online, or by downloading the See Something, Send Something mobile app. 

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