MU Police Chief Jack Watring announced Wednesday morning his department has identified Timothy Aaron Hoag as responsible for the 2005 homicide of Jeong H. Im, a retired faculty member at MU.
Hoag committed suicide on Aug. 9, 2012 in Columbia, and investigators matched DNA taken from the crime scene to Hoag.
The investigation remains open. While the MU Police Department said the evidence and statements gathered don't indicate anyone else was involved with the 2005 homicide, the department invites anyone with more information to come forward, according to an MUPD statement.
MU Chancellor Brady Deaton spoke at the press conference and said these findings will bring closure.
"This is the most important news we will hear this year," Deaton said in an earlier statement printed in an MU News Bureau release. "I am profoundly grateful to MU Police Chief Jack Watring and his staff for their dedication, diligence and extraordinary investigative processes that resolved an 8-year case that has haunted our campus and the Ihm family."
At approximately 12:24 p.m., Friday, Jan. 7, 2005, MUPD officers responded to a vehicle fire in the Maryland Avenue Parking Garage on MU's campus, according to an MUPD statement.
Officials identified Jeong H. Im's body inside the trunk of the vehicle after extinguishing the fire. Medical examiners later discovered Im had been stabbed in his chest with a knife. Officials were also able to collect touch DNA, which would later link Hoag to the crime, according to an MUPD statement.
"Touch DNA refers to the DNA that is left behind from skin cells when a person touches or comes into contact with an item," an MUPD release said. "Human beings shed tens of thousands of skin cells every day."
One of Hoag’s acquaintances gave police a tip in December 2012, indicating Hoag’s involvement in the murder, according to an MUPD statement.
Investigators identified a witness who had transported Hoag on Jan. 7, 2005 — the day investigators discovered Im's body following the homicide. This witness dropped Hoag off at the Maryland Avenue Garage to get a car. Then, approximately two hours later, the witness said he received a call from Hoag requesting he pick him up at a business located north of MU and to bring gasoline. The witness said he believed the gasoline was for Hoag’s vehicle and transported him to the Maryland Avenue Garage, according to an MUPD statement.
At the garage, the witness parked his vehicle one level below where the crime scene was located. Hoag took the gas can, walked up a stairwell and disappeared out of sight from the witness. Later, the witness said Hoag returned wearing a particle facemask and hood covering his head. Upon getting in the vehicle, Hoag ordered the witness to drive away from the area. The witness reported seeing smoke coming out of the garage as they drove away, according to an MUPD statement.
The witness said Hoag looked similar to the description that the department had released following Im’s homicide. The witness felt Hoag was involved in the homicide, but never came forward out of fear of his family’s safety, according to an MUPD statement.
Members of the Ihm family attended the press conference and issued the following statement in an MU News Bureau press release.
"We are deeply grateful to the MU Police Department, University administration, and all the other law enforcement agencies involved, for their dedication, professionalism, and tireless commitment over the last eight years, which have resulted in solving the case," the family said. "We also thank the community for all of their support."
The Ihm family has also asked that their privacy be respected, according to an MUPD statement.
Read updates here on our website as this story develops.