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Man who wanted to ‘invade a Korean’ found not responsible for killing cook

  • Song Su Kim today was found guilty but not criminally responsible for fatally stabbing a South Korean visitor at a rural religious retreat last summer. (Frederick County, Md., Sheriffs Office via AP, File)

FREDERICK, Md. » A man who told authorities he was being poisoned by “witchcraft food” and wanted to “invade a Korean” was found guilty but not criminally responsible today for killing a cook and wounding the victim’s wife at a rural religious retreat favored by Korean immigrants near Washington, D.C.

Song Su Kim, 30, of Falls Church, Virginia, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder and was convicted by a judge after a prosecutor read an agreed-upon statement of facts. Prosecutors dropped three other counts as part of the deal.

Both sides agreed with the findings of a court-ordered mental-health evaluation that concluded Kim was competent to stand trial but not criminally responsible at the time of the attack. The report was filed under seal, so details weren’t available. Under Maryland law, people can be found not criminally responsible if they had a mental disorder that made them unable to appreciate the criminality of their conduct or act within the requirements of the law.

Kim killed Chung Hwan Park, 63, with 11 stab wounds and seriously wounded Ae Suk Ko during a July 26 worship service at the Anna Prayer Counseling and Retreat Center near Urbana, about 40 miles northwest of Washington. The couple, from Suwon, South Korea, were volunteer cooks and maintenance workers at the nondenominational Christian center.

Frederick County Circuit Judge Scott Rolle ordered Kim committed to the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for a psychiatric evaluation to determine if he is a danger to himself or others. The evaluation will be done at the maximum-security Clifton T. Perkins psychiatric hospital in Jessup, where Kim will likely be confined indefinitely, subject to annual reviews, Assistant State’s Attorney Nanci Hamm said.

“I don’t see any doubt that he will be found dangerous,” she said.

Kim, a U.S. citizen, had been brought to the center five days before the attack by his mother, police said. Court records list multiple misdemeanor charges against him in the past 10 years in northern Virginia, including assault, drunken driving and possession of marijuana. Many of the charges were ultimately dismissed.

He was arrested near the retreat after calling 911 to say he had stabbed two people. In another 911 call a day earlier, Kim told a dispatcher “they were making witchcraft food” at the retreat, Hamm said.

After his arrest, Kim told police he was tired of being disrespected by Koreans.

“He stated he wanted to ‘invade a Korean’ for the way all Koreans treated him,” charging documents state.

Hamm said Ko is living with family members in South Korea and “suffering as much mentally as she is physically” from the attack.

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