After renovating the Annandale home where Chung A. Auh maintained her holistic medical practice for the Korean community, Danny Kim learned that she kept a safe containing a lot of cash. And in July 2009, prosecutors said, Kim and his brother drove from the Columbus, Ohio, area to the house on Hummer Road, watched it for more than a day, then went inside.
When a friend found Auh, 53, later on July 24, 2009, her hands were bound and her throat had been slashed. Bloody footprints led directly to a safe that contained $140,000, authorities said, but the assailants weren’t able to open it. Investigators believe that the men beat Auh, trying to persuade her to give them the combination, and killed her.
Detectives found DNA on the handle of the cabinet containing the safe and on a plastic tie next to Auh’s body that matched Kim’s, Fairfax County Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Casey Lingan said. On Wednesday, Kim, 49, pleaded guilty in Fairfax County Circuit Court to two counts of capital murder in exchange for a life term rather than a trial and possible death sentence.
Kim, of Dublin, Ohio, did not speak other than to answer questions from Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Jane Marum Roush, and his sentencing was set for Dec. 16. His brother has not been charged.
The case caused a sensation in the large Korean community in Annandale, where Auh was well known and beloved, her husband, Suhak Auh, said Wednesday.
He said she provided acupuncture and medical services to those who did not have insurance, sought technical help from medical doctors in South Korea, provided free services and house calls to the elderly, and bought food for those in need.
Surveillance cameras from nearby businesses spotted her buying lunch for herself and an older friend shortly before her death.
But footage from her own surveillance camera, recorded on her home computer, was not found. Someone removed the hard drive after the killing, Lingan said.
Suhak Auh said he and his wife had been married for 30 years, moved here in 1993 and had two grown children. But in the Korean community, he said, he was the target of rumors suggesting that he was the suspect, or had hired someone to kill his wife or had been unfaithful to her. He said that compounded his misery and that his children had to withdraw from medical school because they could no longer afford the tuition.
“Even in the middle of the night, I feel her body next to me,” he said. “I get up and go to the cemetery in the middle of the night.”
In the Fairfax homicide squad, Mark Pfeiffer, the lead detective, filed numerous search warrants and pursued the case tirelessly, leading to his being honored by the Korean-American Association of Washington. He was also named Detective of the Year by the Virginia Homicide Investigators Association.