Five adults and a 15-year-old were in custody Thursday on murder charges after a woman’s body was found in the trunk of a car parked outside a popular spa in Georgia’s Gwinnett County. The six suspects referred to themselves as belonging to a religious group called “Soldiers of Christ,” police said.
Investigators told news outlets that someone reported the discovery around 10:50 p.m. Tuesday outside of Jeju, a Korean spa and sauna in Duluth, Georgia. At a news conference Thursday, authorities said the spa does not appear involved in the incident.
The victim, according to arrest warrants, was starved and beaten for weeks before she eventually died. Police believe the starvation began Aug. 3. It’s not immediately clear when the victim died.
The victim’s identity has not been released.
Facing charges of felony murder, false imprisonment, tampering with evidence and concealing the death of another are Eric Hyun, 26, of Suwanee; Gawom Lee, 26; Joonho Lee, 26; Juoonhyum Lee, 22; Hyunji Lee, 25, and a 15-year-old, all from Lawrenceville, the Gwinett County Police Department said in a news release. The police department also released photos of the suspects and the crime scene in a Facebook post.
All are being held without bond. It was unknown if any of them had an attorney who could speak on their behalf.
Detectives believe Hyun was the driver of the car that contained the victim’s body.
After he parked the vehicle early Tuesday, he called a relative to pick him up, police said in a news release. The family member then transported Hyun to an Atlanta area hospital for unrelated injuries. While there, he asked the family member to get a personal item from within the vehicle. When the family member went back to the vehicle, he discovered the woman’s body in the trunk and called 911, police said.
The investigation resulted in a search warrant for a home in unincorporated Lawrenceville that has ties to Hyun.
“The victim was apparently subjected to beatings and malnourishment for weeks. The victim’s body weighed approximately 70 pounds when discovered by detectives. The Medical Examiner’s Office believes malnourishment could be a contributing factor to her death. The exact cause of death is still under investigation,” the news release states.
Detectives believe the crime occurred in the home’s basement, police said.
Detectives believe the victim moved to the United States from South Korea in the summer to join a religious organization, known as “Soldiers of Christ.” The suspects referred to themselves as members of the group, investigators said.
The victim’s family is from South Korea, and death notifications have not yet been made.
Randy Adams, who lives across from the home where police say the crimes were committed, told Atlanta News First that he thinks the suspects moved into the home about a year ago.
Adams told the outlet that he rarely saw them he did see them Tuesday night, standing in a circle in the street. That was the night the body was discovered.
“It was weird because it was kind of intimate. You could see they were really close,” he said.