Missing since '92, man is ruled dead

Columbia resident never returned from Atlantic City trip

Howard County

May 07, 2002|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Nine years ago, Dae Won Kim made a solo trek from Howard County to Atlantic City with plans to play the slots and return in a few days -- a trip not unlike those he had taken in the past.

But he never came home.

Yesterday, with Kim, an immigrant from South Korea who lives in Columbia, listed as missing, his wife and older son appeared in Howard Court Circuit Court to ask Judge Dennis M. Sweeney to declare him dead, which would allow them to legally close his estate and move on with their lives.

Sweeney said yesterday before signing a finding of "presumed death," "It's very tragic that no explanation can be given. ... I'm sure in Atlantic City, many people are reported missing who later turn up in other situations. Unfortunately, this is not one of those cases."

Requests such as the one made by the Kim family turn up only occasionally in court files and require extensive research to ensure that death is the only reason for a disappearance.

Such requests are necessary, however, to gain access to bank accounts and life insurance policies, and to transfer ownership of a family home.

"It doesn't provide closure, but it allows them to move forward," said Timothy F. McCormack, a Baltimore lawyer representing the Kim family.

For the Kims, who moved to the United States in January 1984, Dae Won Kim's disappearance left only questions.

He left for Atlantic City without his green card, Social Security card or passport, documents necessary to work or leave the country. Days after he was to have returned, family and friends who traveled to New Jersey to search for him found his 1983 silver Oldsmobile abandoned in the garage at Caesars Atlantic City.

`Physically exhausted'

Family and friends interviewed by investigators after Kim's disappearance said he was "physically exhausted," according to police reports entered into evidence yesterday. He had also recently bought a $50,000 insurance policy, according to the reports.

Kim, who would now be 63 and initially had planned to go to Atlantic City with a friend, took about $1,400 with him when he left home after breakfast Dec. 25, 1992, according to police reports.

Yesterday, Kim's wife, Chun Ja Kim, who lives in the family's home, on Steel Flower Path, said there were no problems in their marriage.

"Something got wrong, because he is not a person to stay away that long without any notice," she testified through an interpreter.

When Kim did not return or show for a job installing siding on a building in New York, family members and friends searched the casinos, the hospitals and the homeless shelters for him, finding his car but little else, said his son, Kwang Kuk Kim, 34.

They also made up "missing" posters and called relatives in South Korea to find out whether Dae Won Kim, who had been a policeman when the family lived in South Korea, had been in touch with anyone there.

Puzzling case

McCormack said yesterday that Kim's disappearance is puzzling in its lack of clues. If a crime of opportunity was involved, he said, he would expect police to have found some evidence.

"I think that's what perplexes everyone," he said.

After so many years, said Kwang Kuk Kim, the older of Dae Won Kim's two sons, he can reach only one conclusion about his father.

"I believe he is dead by somebody else," he said. "That's all I think of."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.