Gwinnett County

7th arrest made, disturbing new details revealed in Gwinnett “house of horrors” murder case

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — Police have arrested the mother of three of six suspects accused of luring a woman to the U.S. to join a “religious group,” and then beating and starving her to death.

Mihee Lee was booked into the Gwinnett County jail Wednesday morning.

The victim, See Hee Cho, was found dead in the trunk of a Jaguar in front of a popular Korean spa in Gwinnett County last month.

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Police later announced the arrests of six people -- five adults and a 15-year-old boy, in the woman’s death.

They are identified as Eric Hyun, 26; Joonhyum Lee, 22; Joonho Lee, 26; Hyunji Lee, 25; Gawon Lee, 26; and Junyeong Lee, 15.

Mihee Lee is the mother of Juoonhyum, Joonho and Junyeong Lee.

All seven have been charged with felony murder, imprisonment, tampering with evidence and concealing a death. Mihee Lee has also been charged with making false statements.

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Police said in a news conference Cho was from South Korea and was lured to Atlanta over the summer under the guise of joining a religious organization.

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Police said that after she arrived, she was beaten and starved for months until she died.

“They called themselves ‘Soldiers of Christ,’” police said. “Apparently, the victim was subjected to beatings and malnourishment, which subsequently, and what the medical examiner’s office believes led to her death.”

The official cause of death has not been determined.

Cho, who is believed to have been in her 20s or 30s, was approximately 70 pounds when her body was found, police said. They believe she may have been in the trunk for several days.

Police said they believe Hyun drove the Jaguar to the parking lot of the sauna, then called a family member and asked to be picked up and taken to a hospital to be treated for an unrelated injury.

He then sent the family member back to the vehicle to retrieve something, and that person discovered the body and called 911.

Police said that after the body was found, the investigation led them to a home on Stable Gate in Lawrenceville, where they determined that the crimes happened in the home’s basement.

On Wednesday, the attorney for Eric Hyun, David Boyle, released a statement saying that Hyun was actually a victim of the group.

“Eric was recruited to join the church by Joonho Lee,” Boyle said. “Eric was physically tortured... He was stripped naked and shot with an airsoft gun all over his body, causing over a hundred wounds.”

Boyle said Cho was lured to the family’s house on Stable Gate Lane in July and then kept in the basement for weeks and “physically tortured under the guise of religious ritual” to gain entry to the church.

Boyle said Hyun was at the home at the same time as Cho and that he escaped the basement with Cho’s remains in the trunk on Sept. 12.

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According to Hyun’s lawyer, Hyun is still suffering from extensive injuries and is in the medical wing of the Gwinnett County jail.

“If Eric had not escaped the Lee’s house, he also would have died,” Boyle said in the statement.

Boyle also accused the Lee family of convincing Hyun to wire thousands of dollars to Korea and using his credit to buy a home in Suwanee to house the church.

“There are still other members of this religious extremist group at large and the Gwinnett County Police and District Attorney’s Office continue to investigate this case,” Boyle said.

Boyle says his client is innocent.

On Wednesday, the judge allowed Hyun to bond out of jail.

Channel 2′s Courtney Francisco was outside the Gwinnett County courthouse Wednesday, where Joonho Lee was attempting to bond out of jail.

Prosecutors argue that Joonho Lee was the mastermind of the group.

“He told police that the victim, Ms. Cho, was undergoing this admission process voluntarily,” prosecutor Han Chung argued.

Chung described evidence of torturous initiation rituals like starvation, skin sanding and bloody beatings of the face and genitals, some of which was recorded on cell phone video.

“The defendant himself is beating Eric Hyun with what appears to be a leather belt,” Chung said.

Chung said that Junyeong Lee, 15, said he thought that Cho wanted to quit the group, which the group did not allow.

Joonho Lee’s attorney, Scott Drake, argued that his client was a student at Emory wth no prior record “who’s only crime is going to school and trying to better himself.”

Drake was trying to get Joonho Lee released on $50,000 bond, arguing he’d wear a GPS tracker, but the judge denied the request.

“You are a threat to commit additional felonies and a risk to intimidate witnesses in this case,” Judge Tamela Adkins said.