A Pennsylvania man who pleaded guilty to killing his ex-wife's boyfriend with an ax will be deported to his native Korea under the terms of a plea agreement.
Deuk Ho Kim had been charged with first-degree murder, but he pleaded guilty to manslaughter yesterday in county Circuit Court. Judge H. Chester Goudy Jr. sentenced Kim to five years in prison but said Kim could serve the first 18 months of the sentence in the county detention center, where he has been held since his arrest last August. When Kim is deported, the balance of the sentence will be suspended.
Kim, 38, entered an Alford plea, in which a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges the existence of enough evidence to convict him. But speaking through an interpreter, Kim told the judge, "I admit I did kill a man, but . . . he tried to kill me first."
Assistant State's Attorney Cynthia M. Ferris told the court Kim killed 33-year-old Sung Joo Kim last Aug. 20 after an argument over Sung Joo Kim's failure to financially support Deuk Ho Kim's ex-wife's two children, who live in Korea. Ferris said Sung Joo Kim invited Deuk Ho Kim into the house in the 8000 block New Colony Road in Severn, but then grabbed an ax and threatened to kill him.
Deuk Ho Kim's ex-wife, wholived in the house, ran upstairs and locked herself in a room, the prosecutor said. The men argued, but then sat down on the floor and Sung Joo Kim fell asleep. Deuk Ho Kim then "seized the opportunity" to grab the ax and strike the other man in the neck and torso, killing him, Ferris said.
Kim then put the body in two plastic bags and left them in a trash bin in New Jersey, Ferris said, where the body was recovered. Kim turned himself in to Baltimore County police two days later.
Defense attorney T. Joseph Touhey Jr. said his client traveled from his home in Upper Darby, Pa., to Severn to resolve the financial problems and not to fight with or kill the other man. Kim, he said, acted in self-defense.
Yesterday's hearing lasted more than anhour, with a court-certified interpreter repeating everything said in Korean so Kim could understand the proceedings. Kim said he had been in the United States for four years, working at a laundry; Touhey said his client is a legal alien with a "green card."
At one point,Kim asked to speak to his ex-wife and his former employer, who were in the courtroom. They spoke for several minutes in Korean before Touhey interrupted them to say to Kim's former boss, "I don't know what you're saying, but don't talk him out of (accepting the plea agreement)."
Throughout the hearing, Kim expressed concern that officials in Korea would be notified of his conviction here, but Touhey said noofficial notification would be made. Neither Touhey nor Ferris were able to say when Kim would be deported.
After the hearing, Ferris said she allowed Kim to plead guilty to manslaughter, an offense carrying a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, because a jury hearing about the long argument that preceded the killing would have been likely to convict him of manslaughter and not murder. Also, she said language problems with witnesses would have made a trial lengthy and difficult.