A woman’s remains are found in a New York dumpster.

Smiling Su-Ya Kim

Su-Ya Kim

A police sketch of an asian man with wire framed glasses

The main suspect in the case

CASE DETAILS

New York City has always promised the hope of a new start to immigrants like Su-Young Kim and his wife, Su-Ya. In 1981, they married in Seoul, South Korea, then moved to the United States. Su-Young and Su-Ya worked in flea markets until they were finally able to open two stores, one in Long Island and the other in Bushwick, a section of Brooklyn known for its ethnic diversity.

The dumpster Su-Ya's nude body was found in

Su-Ya’s nude body was found in a dumpster

As the business grew, so did the Kim family. Su-Ya and Su-Young had two sons, and often the whole family could be found at the Brooklyn store. The Kims eventually moved to a spacious apartment in Queens. There, on the afternoon of June 29, 1991, just five days after Su-Young and Su-Ya had celebrated their tenth wedding anniversary, Su-Ya left the boys with their grandmother while she went shopping. When Su-Young came home at 8 PM, his wife had not returned from her shopping trip. He called all her friends, but no one knew where she was. Su-Young’s concern mounted after he found Su-Ya’s car still parked in the garage, its engine stone cold:

“My wife had never been out that late for the 10 years of our marriage. I was getting more and more worried. I could not stop thinking that something bad must have happened to her. I stayed up all night waiting for her but she did not come home.”

The next day, Su-Young Kim was summoned to the medical examiner’s office to identify a body:

“I could not and did not want to believe what was going on. As soon as I recognized my wife’s body, I felt everything was over. The whole world seemed to crash down on me. I could not think of anything else except my children.”

A man witnessing another man dumping something in to the dumpster in the alley

A guard caught a man in the alley at 3:00 AM

Su-Ya Kim had been stabbed nine times. Her body was dumped in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, seven miles from the Kims’ apartment in Queens. Although she was nude, there was no evidence of rape. Su-Ya appeared to be the victim of random violence. But unlike many random crimes, this one had a witness. Joe Jones was a private security guard hired to patrol an abandoned building in Bedford Stuyvesant. Around 3:00 AM, ten hours after Su-Ya had disappeared, Jones noticed a man behind a building:

“He hesitated a couple seconds. And he said what if I give you $20. So I said yeah, okay. So at that time when I’m taking the $20, I see that he had blood on him. So I said, how you get blood on you like that?”

The man’s demeanor made Jones suspicious. He got a brief glimpse of the license plate before the car backed out:

“He gets in the car, drives away, but he stops at the corner. I think he thought I was going to go back and see what he put in the garbage. And I really got suspicious when he was looking at me and I was looking at him. So when I went back, I looked on the ground and I saw spots, spots of blood going toward the garbage can.”

An ambulance arriving at the ally where Su-Ya's body was found

An ambulance arrived, but it was too late

Joe Jones recruited a friend who happened by. Together, they cautiously searched the contents of the dumpster. Amidst layers of debris, they saw a woman’s hand. It was the body of Su-Ya. In an uncanny coincidence, the first vehicle to pass by was an ambulance, but it was too late. Su-Ya had already been dead for hours. Thanks to Joe Jones, however, Detective Derrick J. Parker had a description of the killer and his car:

“We ran all the Nissans that fit that description with that plate number in New York City and we tried to match registered owners by using a partial plate. And we were able to come up with one match.”

The vehicle was registered to a Taiwanese exchange student at a Long Island college. She said she had not driven it since about ten o’clock the night before. There was no blood in or on the car. And when Detective Parker checked the engine, he found it had not been driven for hours:

“There was a blue Nissan that fit the description that Mr. Jones told us, however it wasn’t the car.”

Police then began to look at their star witness, Joe Jones, as a suspect. They requested that Jones take a lie detector test. He passed with flying colors and police were positive he had nothing to do with Su-Ya’s murder.

For nearly two years, Su-Young Kim stayed in the United States, but the memories of his wife proved too painful to bear. In April of 1993, he shut down his business and returned with his two little boys to South Korea:

“I could not stand being in the store anymore because everything there reminded me of my wife. Now there are no good memories for me here in America. Since it happened, I lost all my hopes and dreams. I have suffered so much. I’m still struggling hard to get over my wife’s death for the sake of our children. I still truly love and miss her.”

Police have one particular theory which may yet help identify Su-Ya’s killer. The dumpster in Bedford-Stuyvesant was not easily visible from the street, so police believe the killer may be a delivery man or a cab driver, someone with detailed knowledge of the neighborhood.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season six with Robert Stack and in season six with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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32 Comments

  1. Avatar

    thinkingoutloud

    so this murderer is dumb enough to ask a random stranger for help, display signs of blood on him, dispose of the body, and leave all while this one man is watching him? something doesn’t add up.

    i wonder if su-ya had actually went out with her friends that night. maybe the husband is involved?

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Jorge

      Hmm, I had that same thought of the husband . He came home at 8pm, where was he at that time ? Working or what ? Was the black security guard ? Was he making up a story ??

      Reply

  2. Avatar

    Jason

    Marie,
    You know how many people in NYC that had touched that $20 bill?? Even if the crime was committed today, it’d be difficult (but more likely) to solve b/c of DNA left in the car. If there’s no security cams, no DNA, there isn’t much to work with.

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Jorge

      Why they didn’t check dna of the dumpster ? The killer would have to close the lid

      Reply

    • Avatar

      Debbie

      Dna has become so synonymous with solving crimes people don’t realize not only do you need a match (what if the guy was never arrested or had his dna taken for any reason ) but also dna just doesn’t stick all over the place and the other reply was correct how many people touched the dumpster and the bill – they never got any blood it would have been impossible especially when the crime happened

      Reply

  3. Avatar

    Marie

    Ripken seemed to target prostitutes.

    Reply

  4. Avatar

    Marie

    The killers fingerprints were on that $20 bill. Didn’t they check for fingerprints in 91?

    Reply

  5. Avatar

    John Doe

    I’m absolutely convinced that the killer was a lover who may have frequented the shop they owned. The murder took places just 2 days after their anniversary. Coincidence? I think not. Such Ya Kim wanted to break it off with the guy who she was having an affair with and he couldn’t take losing her. I think her husband knew it too and that’s why he left the country. Find the lover anfind the killer. You will solve the case.

    Reply

  6. Avatar

    Kkumdee

    Alex ayala

    Can i ask where u worked for the kims?

    Reply

  7. Avatar

    Sparta

    he probably works/worked for a moving company. I think anyone who moved in or out of the building she lived in (during this time frame)should be traced to find out if they had a hired moving company. This man who killed her had watched her for awhile and knew the habits of the building and her family. He probably knew her from the flea markets the family business began in.

    Reply

  8. Avatar

    Alex Ayala

    I worked for this family I would just like to know if they found that person who killed ms su young Kim.. they was the nicest people I have ever met..

    Reply

  9. Avatar

    A.H.

    Convicted serial killer Joel Rifkin bears a resemblance to the man in the composite sketch and committed his crimes in New York. http://truecrimejunkie.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/rifkin_Joel_130x171-e1307383835803.jpg

    This may be a tip to pass along?

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Anonymous

      He does!

      Reply

    • Avatar

      Michael Doyle

      That is true, but I believe Joel Rifkin strangled all of his victims (except his first which was years earlier). Su Ya was stabbed 9 times. They often say stabbing someone so many times is a sign of anger, often personal. The husband seemed genuinely broken up about it so i don’t think it was him, but maybe he or his wife had an enemy we don’t know about. Also pointing away from Rifkin is the fact he seemed to confess in detail to most of his murders and sometimes seemed to brag about it. I don’t think he would have failed to include this Su Ya when discussing the other murders. He certainly resembles the sketch but I think it ends there.

      Reply

  10. Avatar

    Anna

    Did they ever give the husband a polygraph test ?

    Reply

  11. Avatar

    Anonymous

    Hi UM,

    Can you let me know which law enforcement is handling this case? If they haven’t already, they need to exhume her body. I’m sure the DNA would help them catch the killer.

    Reply

  12. Avatar

    Anonymous

    Hi Unsolved Mysteries,

    Is it possible to to advise the authorities handling this case to DNA test her body? With our technology today, that should almost certainly solve the case.

    Reply

  13. Avatar

    AH

    I can’t find the appropriate contact for this case. The composite resembles serial killer Joel Rifkin. Perhaps if the NYPD ran a DNA profile, they’d maybe have the match?

    Reply

  14. Avatar

    Chanita

    That Was A Dumb Thing To!He Needs To Face The Death pentley!

    Reply

  15. Avatar

    Tanya

    I was 3yrs old when this happened and this was right up the block from me. I always wonder who , what, when, where , why and how. This case should be reopened and her DNA should be out into the fbi database. That family needs justice such a horrible way to die. I always google her name to see if they have any new leads.

    Reply

  16. Avatar

    Blue bird

    Wow How Did He Do That? If That Was Me I Would Never Do That Especially At 3:00 In The Morning? I Feel So Bad For Both The Suspect And The victim And Her Family U know What did That Woman Do To Prevoke That Man? I Mean What Made Him So Mad ? God Forbid Note To The Killer U Had Become Satan’s Puppet And He Will Destroy Your Path Will Lead U To Destruction?

    Reply

  17. Avatar

    Joanna L.

    I just watched the episode of this poor woman… I pray they reexamine every thing ….Her poor kids and family deserve justice….. Wow! In a dumpster!!!!

    Reply

  18. Avatar

    J.Viper

    You have a license plate number and vehicle match. That is the key to this case. So what if the owner of the vehicle said she hadn’t driven it all night. Just baffles my mind that you have such a good lead and nothing comes of it.

    Reply

    • Avatar

      A.H.

      Beyond me as well. Could Mr. Jones have gotten the license plate wrong? Doubt it. Did someone change the license plate number?

      Feel so bad for Mr. Jones. He must have felt great knowing he was going to solve a crime. No clue how this didn’t turn out anything.

      Reply

  19. Avatar

    Guy

    Having problems finding the proper NYPD tip line. This guy absolutely could be Joel Rifkin and we should ask them about comparing Rifkin’s DNA to the killer of Su-Ya. Can you help, Unsolved?

    Reply

  20. Avatar

    A Guy.

    The killer looks a LOT like New York serial killer Joel Rifkin:

    http://www.sitcomsonline.com/boards/showthread.php?t=335598

    I feel like exhuming her body for DNA could be a possibility. For all we know, it could be Rifkin. Was in his early 30s at the time of the murder and looks very similar to the man in the composite sketch. This is something that should be told to the NYPD.

    Reply

  21. Avatar

    Andrew Q

    Has anyone seen this guy with glasses who looks like that picture of a man who maybe a delivery man or a cab driver in Brooklyn? Please leave a comment if you did see him.

    Reply

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