Sun Hui Jung called the Virginia detective on most Mondays and Fridays for nearly five years. Sometimes she even waited outside the police station, hoping in vain for news of a break in the search for her husband's killer.
Jung finally hired a private detective to help. When he slipped her an affidavit over coffee at a Northern Virginia Whole Foods Market in May 2015, Jung was overwhelmed. She nervously scanned the statement in Korean, unspooling a tale of murder and money.
It was purportedly written by a chauffeur named Guen Suk Yoo, who said he had driven his employer and two other men to the large Fairfax County home Jung shared with her husband, Yong Suk Yun, 61, on the day of the slaying in 2010.
The statement said that three passengers entered through an open garage door and that the chauffeur heard quarreling and screaming. Two of the men then sped off in Yun's gold Lexus SUV, before his employer emerged with a paper bag. A woman who had been inside the home was with him. Yoo left with his employer and the woman, but members of both parties rendezvoused later. The employer then split $40,000 in cash among the chauffeur and the other two men, according to the statement.
Jung was convinced that the affidavit held the key to solving her husband's case. David Park, the private investigator, had somehow succeeded where detectives had hit only dead ends.
"Let's go to police," Jung told him.
What followed was a bizarre saga involving a mysterious murder, an international search for a man who may or may not exist and an alleged $100,000 cash drop in a Wendy's parking lot. It led to competing claims by Jung and Park that each had been victims of an elaborate hoax. Sorting it out would require unraveling wildly different stories.
That process is still unfolding.
A plan to catch a killer
David Park looked like a federal agent.
On the day Jung's friend introduced them, Park wore a crisp brown suit and neatly slicked-back hair, Jung said. On a lanyard around his neck, he displayed an official-looking ID. He is a licensed private detective in Virginia.
In Jung's telling, Park told her that he helped police crack the killing of an acupuncturist who was well-known in the area's large Korean community. Park later told her he had been looking for her because he thought he could help her, too. Jung was touched.
Finding her husband's killer had become the axis of her life. She was ready to give up Dr. Wash, the Chantilly carwash she and her husband had built into a multimillion-dollar business, if it would help bring someone to justice.
Jung immigrated to the United States from South Korea in the 1980s with almost nothing, she said. She met Yun and they were married in the early '90s. She called him handsome and generous, the kind of guy who always picked up the tab when he went out for dinner with friends.
They built a lucrative business and bought a million-dollar home in Fairfax Station. Jung called it the American dream.
But it ended the afternoon of Oct. 7, 2010. Jung returned home to find her husband dead in the garage, she said. Police said he had been stabbed at least a dozen times with knives from their kitchen.
Yun, who knew taekwondo, fought hard. Police said his hands were bruised and broken. The blade of one knife was snapped off. At one point, the lead detective on the case called it the most violent murder scene she had ever seen.
Thousands of dollars were stolen from the house, Jung said. Bloody sockprints snaked through the home, leading investigators to theorize that the killer or killers possibly knew Yun and had removed their shoes before entering.
Jung said she still fears for her safety and does not keep large amounts of cash in her current home or at Dr. Wash.
Fairfax County police detectives pored over the clues, but by 2015, the investigation had slowed. Jung was desperate for anything to jump-start the case by the time she met Park.
She initially hired him to locate three people she thought might be involved in her husband's killing. They had tensions with her and her husband, she said, but she declined to discuss details.
After Jung paid Park with $4,500 worth of checks and cash, he asked for future payments in cash only, she said.
Within weeks, the move appeared to pay off.
Jung said Park told her his investigation revealed that one of the men she suspected was involved in her husband's slaying. The Washington Post is not naming the man because he has not been charged in the killing or named as a suspect and no evidence made public by police links him to the crime. In an interview, the man said he was not involved in the slaying.
In March 2015, Jung and Park pulled up outside the man's Leesburg home. As Jung watched from the car, she said Park knocked on his door. Jung was too far away to hear, but a conversation ensued.
When Park returned to the car, he said that, based on the conversation, he believed a second person also was involved in the killing. Park said the man told him he had employed a chauffeur who had once stolen money from him before moving to South Korea.
Jung's response was swift: Find the chauffeur.
The call from South Korea came the next month. Park had located Guen Suk Yoo. The chauffeur agreed to give a statement about the slaying in exchange for $50,000, Jung said Park told her.
Jung agreed. She said she worked out an arrangement to give Park cash via a friend's brother, who owned a bookstore in Seoul, she said. After the handoff was made, Park told Jung the affidavit would not be enough, she said. To get a conviction, she would need Yoo to testify at trial.
Jung said Park told her the chauffeur was willing, but only if another $100,000 was sent to his wife, whom he was divorcing in Virginia. Jung was reluctant, but she clung to the hope her husband's killer was close to being caught.
The scene that followed was pure crime thriller. Jung said Park told her that Yoo wanted her to deliver the money to his wife in a cash drop at a Wendy's parking lot in Annandale.
Jung said she separated the money into $10,000 bundles and stuffed them into a Whole Foods paper sack.
Jung and a friend circled the fast-food restaurant on the agreed-upon night before pulling up to a black Toyota. Jung said she was so nervous that she shook as her friend handed the cash to a woman who thanked them and drove off.
Minutes later, Jung said, Park called her to tell her Yoo had confirmed that his wife got the money.
Yoo was going to testify.
"Things aren't adding up"
Park returned to the United States with Yoo's affidavit in May 2015. Jung said she repeatedly urged him to go to the police, but he made excuses.
Jung said she finally enticed him with an extraordinary offer: She would give him the reward in the case plus $30,000. Park bit on the $100,000 offer and met with police to show them the affidavit, Jung said.
Afterward, Jung said, Fairfax County Police Detective Constance Bates reached out to her. She had doubts about Park. Bates said she couldn't find any evidence that Yoo existed.
"Things aren't adding up," Jung recalls Bates telling her. "Don't give him any more money until I research him further."
Jung said she nearly fainted. She hadn't told Bates yet, but she said she had laid out roughly $300,000 in payments and expenses to Park.
She called Park and angrily told him to go back to Korea to find Yoo. Park flew to Asia on his own dime, she said, and told Jung he hired a crew to surveil Yoo's house but the man never emerged. Park said further investigations revealed that Yoo moved to China.
Jung was devastated. She was now convinced that Park invented Yoo.
Jung said the convoluted story seems foolish to have accepted, in retrospect, but she was vulnerable and wanted to believe she was on the cusp of solving the riddle that had consumed her.
"How could someone do that to someone?" Jung said. "I'm sick."
Jung said she resolved to turn the tables on Park. She hired an attorney to pick apart Park's story and file a lawsuit against him in 2017. She told the full story to police, too, sparking a criminal case. Park was charged last year with grand larceny and multiple counts of obtaining money under false pretenses.
The surprises were not over.
Scam accusations all around
Park had his own story to tell.
In his version, he was the victim of a wealthy and vindictive client, who sued him and pursued a malicious prosecution to avoid paying about $40,000 he said she owed him for his second trip to South Korea. And, he said, Jung was also angry that a breakthrough in her husband's case did not materialize.
In an interview, Park said he fulfilled his initial contract with Jung, diligently working to find the people she believed might be involved in her husband's killing.
He denied defrauding Jung of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Park called the alleged bookstore money swap, Wendy's cash drop and payment to entice him to speak with police a colorful ruse by Jung intended to distract from the fact that she was actually trying to get over on him.
Park denies most of the rest of Jung's story, too. He said he never told Jung that he helped solve the acupuncturist's murder, and he disputes her account of how he learned of the chauffeur. Most importantly, he insists Yoo is a real person.
"I'm a little guy without power," Park said. "People with a lot of power are accusing me of things I didn't do."
Park filed counterclaims against Jung in 2017. Shortly before he was charged, Park also sued authorities to recover about $50,000 in cash that was seized from his home pursuant to a search warrant.
Jung and Park's dueling stories would play out before juries in a civil trial and then a criminal proceeding late last year. Jung's attorney Jason Huh said his client was defrauded "to the tune of $300,000."
Chap Petersen, Park's attorney, countered that there were no receipts, notes, photos or other proof Park had received the various cash payments from Jung. He called her claims "complete fiction."
Some witnesses testified that the bookstore money exchange and Wendy's money drop occurred largely as Jung described. During the criminal trial, evidence showed that the Department of Homeland Security had no record of a man named Guen Suk Yoo entering or leaving the United States. No one by that name had a driver license in Virginia, and a Korean government ID number for him proved to be phony.
The testimony cast doubt on Park's story, but Jung's account was also undercut at points. Jung testified that the cash she gave Park came from a safe-deposit box, but Petersen obtained records showing it hadn't been opened during the relevant period. A witness for Park disputed that the bookstore exchange occurred.
The jury in the civil trial found for Jung, awarding her about $125,000. But the judge reduced the amount to less than $25,000, saying the safe-deposit box records made Jung's claims questionable. After a lengthy deliberation in the criminal trial, a jury found Park not guilty.
Jung said she felt stung. She said she hoped to put Park out of business. Park said he was vindicated by the verdict in the criminal trial. He plans to continue to work as a private detective. He even got back the $50,000 police seized from him.
Fairfax County police said the probe of Yun's killing remains active and in particular asked if anyone in the public is able to recognize keys found near the scene where Yun's car was abandoned.
"We strongly believe that there was more than one offender at the scene of the murder - but also potentially others who helped to plan or otherwise have knowledge of the crime," said 2nd Lt. Vincent Scianna.
Jung has appealed to Virginia's Supreme Court the judge's ruling that reduced her civil judgment against Park. She visits her husband's grave weekly and won't give up the quest to find his killer, despite all the twists and turns of recent years.
"Not even in a movie, have I seen a story like this," she said.
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