Northbrook mom questions how her troubled son died
Skokie-Friday-July 23-2010 Eunsook Koh (left) and her daughter Helen Koh both in tears outside the Cook County Circuit Court in Skokie Friday morning after the judges ruling. (Allen Kaleta/for STM) Northbrook resident Hyungseok Koh was charged April 2009 for murdering his son, Paul. Since November, his defense attorney, Elliot Zinger, has argued in pretrial hearings that he was unlawfully arrested and therefore much evidence and his confession should be tossed out of court. On Friday, June 23, judge makes his decision regarding those circumstances. Photog his family outside.
Updated: December 7, 2012 8:11AM
NORTHBROOK — Hyungseok Koh, accused of the 2009 stabbing death of his son in Northbrook, buried his head in his hands as his wife Friday described the deceased young man as very troubled.
Eunsook Koh, Hyungseok’s wife and the mother of their then 22-year-old son, testified through tears in a Cook County court room in Skokie that her son, Paul, was using drugs and also may have been having mental problems before being found dead April 16, 2009, in the foyer of their Birch Road home.
Hyungseok, who has been held in Cook County Jail on a $5 million bond since he allegedly confessed to the murder that day, has since changed his plea to innocent.
His attorneys have filed motions to suppress his confession, as well as a lawsuit against the Northbrook police charging that they violated Hyungseok’s constitutional rights during his arrest and interrogation.
A “gag order” also has been placed on prosecution and defense attorneys prohibiting them from discussing the case with reporters.
Prosecutors contend that Hyungseok murdered his only son in a rage, disgusted by his unacceptable behavior, while defense attorneys said that Paul died by his own hand because of his mental state.
Circuit Court Judge Garrett Howard, who is presiding over the case, temporarily halted the proceedings several times to allow Eunsook to compose herself as she broke into sobs during questioning by both States Attorney Michele Gemskie and defense attorney Terri Maschera of Jenner & Block.
Through an interpreter who translated the attorneys questions into Korean and Eunsook’s
responses into English, Eunsook described several different times during which Paul had acted strangely, suggesting he might have ended his life himself.
“Paul said at the restaurant when we went there for his last birthday that he could hear voices in his ears and wanted to purchase guns to protect himself,” Eunsook said Friday (Nov. 30), on what would have been Paul’s 25th birthday.
“The changes in his behavior were rather extreme. To my eyes, it also was not normal for him to go from quiet to very, very loud.”
Another time, Eunsook discovered that Paul had punched a hole in a wall in his room after she heard loud screams coming from it.
After graduating from Glenbrook North High School in Northbrook, Paul had attended classes at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Ill.; Kishwaukee Community College in Macom, Il.; Oakton Community College, which has campuses in Des Plaines and Skokie; and Trinity International University in Deerfield. However, he stayed for only months at each.
Eunsook said she and her husband, then 58, asked the aid of family and youth counselors, as well as other members of their church, New Life Church in Palatine, who had experience in dealing with people who had drug problems.
“I prayed he would return to his normal life. At times he tried really hard, but at times he couldn’t do much. He slept a lot and had depression,” Eunsook said.
She vividly recalled one night in early December 2008 when Paul and one of his religious counselors returned from having dinner together and went to Paul’s bedroom.
“They stayed there a long time, maybe two hours. They were praying very loud and I heard a different voice, like in an exorcism. It was almost like a wild animal-growling,” Eunsook said.
“My son came out of the room drenched in sweat. His entire body was wet. I gave Paul a big hug. He said he was very happy and very grateful to Jesus.”
However, that happiness was short lived.
The jury listened to two 911 calls Hyungseok made to police the day of Paul’s death that were so hysterical they could barely be understood. In them, he said he didn’t know what happened.
Eunsook also stated that the knife found next to Paul’s body, which she originally believed had come from the kitchen, had not. That knife was still in a drawer and not used to kill him.
Eunsook noted that Paul had said he had been beaten up and threatened one time after working out at the North Suburban YMCA, 2705 Techny Road, in Northbrook. She added that not only was he bruised, but that his cell phone and wallet were missing, suggesting that perhaps those who attacked him might have had something to do with Paul’s death.
About 30 relatives and friends hung on every word, seeming to support the couple.
The trial continues this week.