The mother of three suspects charged with murdering a South Korean woman, who was beaten and starved in Georgia by members of a religious group called the ‘Soldiers of Christ,’ has been arrested in connection with the woman’s death, authorities said.
The victim, 33-year-old Seehe Cho, weighed roughly 70 pounds when she was discovered in the trunk of a car parked outside of Jeju Sauna, a popular South Korean spa located in Duluth, about 25 miles north of Atlanta, the Gwinnett County Police Department said in a news release.
Two days after her body was found, police said six people were arrested and charged with felony murder, false imprisonment, tampering with evidence and concealing the death of another.
Mihee Lee, the mother of three of the suspects, was arrested on Wednesday on charges of felony murder, false imprisonment, tampering with evidence and concealing the death of another, and false statements, court documents show.
The initial investigation last month led to the arrest of six people, including Eric Hyun, 26; Gawom Lee, 26; Joonho Lee, 26; Hyunji Lee, 25; and Juoonhyum Lee, 22. One of the arrested individuals is a 15-year-old, police said. CNN is not naming the juvenile who has been charged as an adult.
The victim is thought to have been subjected to beatings and malnourishment for weeks, the department said. Detectives believe the woman moved to the United States from South Korea during the summer of this year “for the purpose of joining a religious organization,” Gwinnett County police said.
In September, police released photos of the basement that appear to show a storage room with laundry and other supplies neatly arranged on shelves. The carpet of the room has large areas of blood, which have been redacted in the photos provided by the department, CNN previously reported.
Suspect was also torture victim, attorney says
In September, officers found the victim in a car Hyun had parked in a parking lot. Police said he got picked up by a family member, whom he asked to retrieve something from his car. When the family member found Cho’s body in the trunk, they called 911, police said.
Authorities then searched a home associated with that car and allege the members of the ‘Soldiers of Christ’ religious group beat and kept Cho in the home until her death. They did not specify when she likely died.
In a statement to CNN on Wednesday, Hyun’s attorney said his client was a victim of the “Lee family and their religious extremism.”
The attorney, David Boyle, also said Hyun and the victim were attempting to escape from the group, adding if his client had not escaped, “he would have also died.” He claims Hyun was recruited to join the ‘Soldiers of Christ’ group by the same suspect who allegedly recruited Cho.
Kenneth Sheppard, an attorney for Hyunji Lee, told CNN he requested a preliminary hearing for his client.
Attorneys for three of the other suspects did not respond when contacted by CNN for comment. CNN was unable to locate attorneys for the remaining two suspects.
Hyun’s attorney said his client was tortured as part of the group’s religious rituals and suffered “extensive injuries” and can “barely walk.” Hyun spent two weeks at a hospital in Atlanta and was then booked into a county jail, where he continues to be treated in the jail’s medical wing.
“Eric can barely walk,” his attorney said.
On Wednesday, police confirmed Hyun was booked into the jail after being released from the hospital.
A spokesperson for the Gwinnett Police Department said they are “aware of the allegations” made by Hyun’s attorney and said the investigation remains ongoing.
CNN’s Kate Conerly & Fabiana Chaparro contributed to this report.