NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The man authorities say slew his sisters and their husbands before killing himself at a suburban Atlanta spa in a dispute reportedly involving an unopened Conyers spa appears to be the same person acquitted of killing three men in 1989 in Louisiana.
Jefferson Parish officials confirmed that records show a man named Jeong Soo Paek was acquitted of the slayings in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie, La. In those slayings, Jeong was shot in the face and lost an eye. The file on the case was destroyed in 1994, officials said.
The shooter in this week's spa slayings was a 59-year-old man missing an eye and also named Jeong Soo Paek, said Norcross police Chief Warren Summers. Summers was not able to confirm it was the same person but said he had heard Jeong had been involved in a crime in Louisiana in the past.
In that case, a 54-year-old man, Sang Pok Yi, and his sons, Sang "Robert" Man Yi, 26, and Sung Tae Yi, 27, were fatally shot a home in Metairie. Jeong worked for the father in a building maintenance business.
In court testimony reported by The Times-Picayune at his trial in 1990, Jeong said the men became hostile toward him when he told them he might start his own business. He said he was beaten, and fired a .45-caliber pistol when he thought one of the men was about a draw a gun. It was never established which gun the bullets that wounded Jeong came from.
Several jurors said there was not enough evidence to support finding Jeong guilty of murdering the men.
In its 1990 story on the acquittal, the newspaper reported jurors said a turning point was the testimony of a plastic surgeon who treated Jeong for facial wounds at a local hospital on the night of the killings. The paper also reported Jeong's tongue was destroyed by the bullets.
The prosecution alleged Jeong shot himself three times in the neck and face — tearing out his right eye — in a suicide attempt soon after shootings.
The plastic surgeon, Dr. Richard Sabatier, said it was highly unlikely the man could have shot himself three times. A forensic pathologist testified the cheek wound that took out his eye was from a gun probably fired more than 2 feet away and too far to be self-inflicted.
Also, a former head of the sheriff's office crime laboratory who quit in a dispute with the sheriff testified for the defense, saying detectives and crime scene technicians made many mistakes in the case. He said a bloody carpet in the house should have been removed for blood typing to determine if the three men were aggressively moving toward Jeong when he shot them.
When he was acquitted, rejoicing with Jeong were his wife and twin 9-year-old daughters, according to the newspaper.
Police in Georgia have given little information about Jeong's personal life. But court records from 2006 show that Jeong's family was afraid of his violent tendencies, Atlanta television station WSB reported Friday.
The victims of the killings in Georgia were his sisters and brothers-in-law, 61-year-old Kum Hi Song, 64-year-old Byong Ok Kang, 57-year-old Kum Sook Kim and 55-year-old Tae Yol Kim.
One of the victims, Jeong's sister Kum Song, asked for a temporary protective order while he was serving a sentence for assaulting her.
"I am concerned that he is becoming more threatening and wants to harm us with his guns. My brother has also threatened to commit suicide with his guns," WSB reported she wrote to a judge.
About 20 people were inside the white-columned spa in the Atlanta suburb of Norcross during Tuesday's shooting.
Police said just hours earlier, Jeong was asked to leave the Su Jung Health Sauna because he was being disruptive. He returned around 8:30 p.m. and opened fire, they said. A .45-caliber gun believed used in the shooting was recovered.
Detectives were trying to determine a motive, but said they believe the shootings could have involved a financial dispute and loans for a new Conyers business, Spa World, that Paek was set to open.
Norcross police were in Conyers on Friday gathering information on the West Avenue business, which had a license issued Jan. 9.
"We're trying to get through this and handle the final services, to be with my family," said Michael Kang, Byong Kang's son.
Friends of Byong Kang, one of the spa's co-owners, said he was a well-known member of the community who served on a variety of committees, including an advisory council for Korean business groups.
"He had great people skills," said Travis Kim, the president of the Korean-American Association of Greater Atlanta. "He had a calm personality, so in various situations, he would give me a lot of ideas. When I was going through some rather difficult situations, he was there to give me advice and I'm grateful."
Kim said he had met Paek a few times and described him as an odd man who always wore dark sunglasses.
The carnage could have been worse. When the gunfire erupted, about 20 people were inside the stand-alone brick building decked out with white columns and white Greek-style statues. Spas in the area model themselves after traditional Korean bath houses, offering saunas, beauty treatments and cafes.
Hours before the shooting unfolded, police said Paek was asked to leave the spa because he was being disruptive. Harr said the man returned around 8:30 p.m. and opened fire in the salon area near the front of the building.
Investigators later recovered a .45-caliber gun they believed was used in the shooting.
Sonny Lee, who owns an auto center in the same shopping center, said Kang was known to argue with family members over money. He said Kang lived in the area for about 15 years and made a name for himself in the community.
"He was a member of different societies that gave back," Lee said. "It's a shock. It's a very close-knit community."
Funerals were planned this past weekend for the four family members at Lee's Funeral Home in Decatur.
Associated Press writer Jeff Martin contributed to this report.