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Delayed Justice
Posted by Charles Esslinger on Mar 7th, 2014

In 1996, Kyung Ho Song was charged with the drunk driving death of of a Chicago woman. To avoid punishment, the South Korean businessman posted a low bond, liquidated over $1 million in assets, and fled to his native country. Since then, he's lived a relatively luxurious life in South Korea, with seemingly no regard for his past crimes. Until now...

This Wednesday, Song was taken into FBI custody during a delayed return flight to O'Hare International Airport. The 75-year-old, who was wearing a gray T-shirt and a baseball cap at the time of his arrest, was then transferred to the Cook County sheriff's fugitive warrant unit. Currently, he is facing charges of reckless homicide and aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol. In order to prevent yet another escape, Song was denied bond.

“Finally there is going to be justice,” said Brenda Molina, daughter of Sonia Naranjo, who was struck and killed by Song in 1996. “We never thought it was going to happen. Hopefully my ma can rest in peace.”

Although Song's case seemed to have been forgotten, the long-dormant investigation was eventually reexamined after the publication of a Chicago Tribune “Fugitives From Justice” article in 2011. A year later, the paper was able to track Song to a suburb of Seoul, South Korea. When interviewed by a reporter from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, in partnership with the Tribune, Song didn't seem interested in talking about Naranjo. Instead, he complained about his how his own life had unraveled since he became a fugitive. “I am such an unlucky guy,” he told the reporter.

After those interviews, Song fled to another location in South Korea in order to avoid arrest. His escape, however, would prove to be short-lived. With the help of Korean and U.S. authorities, Song was tracked down and arrested in December of 2013. He was held in South Korean custody until the country's Ministry of Justice processed his extradition to Chicago.

According to authorities, Song was clearly intoxicated when he rear-ended Sonia Naranjo in 1996 – at the time of the incident, he had bloodshot eyes and a blood alcohol level that was nearly double the legal limit. The force of the collision was enough to push Naranjo's broken-down station wagon, which she was pushing from behind, onto an emergency exit on Lake St. near Rout 59 in Bartlett. Unfortunately, the crash killed Naranjo, a 43-year-old Ecuadorean immigrant, and seriously injured of another bystander.

Although Song was never a U.S. citizen, he had lived in America for 15 years at the time of the fatal crash. As a businessman, his holdings included a strip mall, shoe stores, and a large Schaumburg home. During his appearance in court, Song misrepresented himself in order to receive a low bond –he claimed that he was the manager of a $12,000-a-year shoe store with no significant assets.

Within days of his release, Song was able to liquidate most of his assets, including his home, the strip mall, and other property in the Chicagoland area. A day after he failed to show up for a 1998 court appearance, he fled the country and flew to South Korea. Now, after nearly two decades, justice has finally been served.

Brenda Molina, along with two of her siblings, attended Songs court appearance last Wednesday in Rolling Meadows. Afterwards, they went to a restaurant in Chicago to talk about the day's events and remember their mother. “It's a relief, like a monkey off our back, to have closure,” Molina's brother Mario Mendez said. “It's like a miracle.”


Sources:

Chicago Tribune - http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/fugitives/ct-fugitive-extradited-met-20140306,0,6639886.story