6 arrested after woman’s body found in trunk outside Gwinnett spa

Police say she was lured to U.S. to join religious group, then beaten and denied food for several weeks

Credit: Olivia Bowdoin

Credit: Olivia Bowdoin

Investigators believe a woman was held against her will for several weeks inside a Gwinnett County home, where she was beaten and denied food until her death. Then, she was put inside the trunk of a car and left outside a business.

The woman’s name has not been released because her relatives, who live out of the country, have not been notified, according to police. But investigators believe she came to the United States during the summer and moved into a Lawrenceville home with hopes of joining a religious group known as the “Soldiers of Christ,” police said Thursday afternoon.

Six people, including a teenager, were charged with murder Wednesday, a day after the woman’s 70-pound body was found inside the car outside a Duluth-area bathhouse and spa, according to police. Medical examiners believe malnourishment contributed to the death of the woman, who was thought to be in her mid-20s to 30s, police said.

The adult suspects were identified as Eric Hyun, 26, Joonhyun Lee, 22, Joonho Lee, 26, Hyunji Lee, 25, and Gawon Lee, 26. They are each facing charges of felony murder, false imprisonment, tampering with evidence and concealing the death of another. A 15-year-old, Junyeoug Lee, was also charged with murder and was being held at a youth detention center, police said.

The woman was found late Tuesday inside a silver Jaguar sedan outside Jeju Sauna, a popular 24-hour Korean bathhouse on Gwinnett Place Drive, police said. Cpl. Juan Madiedo said investigators believe she may have been dead for more than a week before her body was placed in the trunk.

“She did come over from South Korea sometime over the summer in hopes of joining this religious organization,” Madiedo said at an afternoon news conference.

Authorities believe Hyun drove his car with the woman’s body inside to the business parking lot early Tuesday. He then called a family member to pick him up, Madiedo said.

The family member took Hyun to an Atlanta hospital for treatment of unrelated injuries, police said. While there, Hyun asked the person to retrieve an item from his car. That’s when the family member saw the body and called 911, police said. The family member was not charged.

None of the suspects have a connection to the business where Hyun’s vehicle was parked, according to police.

Investigators tracked Hyun to a Lawrenceville address, where he lived at one time, police said. They then executed a search warrant at 2415 Stable Gate, a home located near Sever Road. Property records show the home was purchased by a Lee family member in June 2021.

Credit: Gwinnett County police

Credit: Gwinnett County police

“We do believe the basement of the location was where these individuals did these beatings and kept the individual until she passed away,” Madiedo said.

Photos of the basement, released by police, showed several pairs of what appeared to be hiking boots along with pieces of wood and areas where investigators observed blood.

Credit: Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office

Credit: Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office

Three of the suspects are brothers, police said. Investigators believe five of the suspects were U.S. citizens and the other had a visa to be in the country.

Hyun remains in the hospital but is in police custody. The other adult suspects were arrested Wednesday night and remain in the Gwinnett jail without bond. Booking records show that all lived at the same Lawrenceville address except for Hyun, who had a Suwanee address.

Investigators believe all of those responsible for the woman’s death are in custody. Madiedo said there is no indication that others were harmed in the home.

— Staff writer David Aaro contributed to this article.