Five adults and one juvenile have been charged with murder after a 70-pound female — who had been beaten and malnourished for weeks — was discovered dead in the trunk of a vehicle this week, police in Georgia said Thursday.
The victim, who was not publicly identified, is from South Korea and came to the United States this summer to join a religious group, according to a statement from the Gwinnett County Police Department.
“The accused individuals referred to themselves as belonging to ‘Soldiers of Christ,’” police said.
The woman’s cause of death remains under investigation, but the medical examiner’s office “believes malnourishment could be a contributing factor,” police said.
Arrest warrants indicate that the woman was starved and beaten for weeks before she died. Police believe the starvation began Aug. 3, but it wasn’t immediately clear when she died.
Eric Hyun, 26, of Suwanee, Georgia; Gawom Lee, 26, Joonho Lee, 26, Juoonhyum Lee, 22, and Hyunji Lee, 25, are all from Lawrenceville, Georgia, were charged with felony murder, false imprisonment, tampering with evidence and concealing the death of another, police said.
A 15-year-old was also charged.
It was unclear Thursday night whether they had attorneys.
The investigation into the body in the trunk began Tuesday, police said.
Detectives believe Hyun on Tuesday parked the vehicle at a business in Duluth that advertises services for Korean spas. Police said the business was not thought to be connected to the death.
Hyun then called a relative to pick him up and was taken to an Atlanta hospital for treatment for unrelated injuries, police said.
While at the hospital, Hyun asked the relative to retrieve a personal item from the car. Hyun’s relative then found what appeared to be a body in the trunk and called 911 Tuesday night, police said.
The discovery of the victim prompted investigators to execute a search warrant at an unincorporated Lawrenceville house associated with Hyun, police said.
“Detectives believe the basement of this home was where the crime took place,” police said.
Investigators, police said, believe all suspects associated with the alleged crimes are in custody.