American extradited to South Korea to face trial in 1997 stabbing death
SEOUL, South Korea — A U.S. citizen accused of fatally stabbing a college student 18 years ago in an Itaewon fast-food restaurant bathroom was extradited to South Korea on Wednesday to face trial.
Arthur Patterson, 35, of Sunnyvale, Calif., was initially suspected of homicide in the 1997 slaying, but after serving time for lesser charges in the case, he was mistakenly allowed to leave South Korea the following year. In 2011, he was indicted for murder by South Korean prosecutors but has since fought extradition in U.S. courts.
Patterson was 18 and the dependent of a U.S. Forces Korea contractor when Cho Joong-pil, 22, died of multiple stab wounds in a Burger King bathroom.
“It’s not right that (the family of the victim) have to keep going through this pain over and over and over, but it’s not right that I’m here either,” Patterson said after arriving at Incheon International Airport, Yonhap News reported. “I’m still shocked that I’m even here.”
Photos released Wednesday by South Korean media showed a somber Patterson, wearing a white T-shirt and sweatpants and escorted by South Korean officials, arriving at the airport. He will be held at the Seoul Detention Center until his trial, which could begin as early as next month, according to the Ministry of Justice.
The case has attracted enormous attention in South Korea because of the perception that Patterson and a second defendant, Eddie Lee, received lenient treatment. The killing was also the basis for a popular 2009 movie, “The Case of Itaewon Homicide.”
Lee, a Korean-American with no links to the U.S. military, was sentenced to life in prison for the attack. His sentence was later reduced to 20 years, but after serving 18 months, he was acquitted for lack of evidence.
Patterson on Wednesday said Lee is responsible for Cho’s death, Yonhap reported.
After the stabbing, Patterson was charged with possessing a deadly weapon and destroying evidence. He was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison but was released in 1998 as part of the annual Aug. 15 Liberation Day amnesty granted by the South Korean government to approximately 2,000 convicts.
At the time, prosecutors promised to pursue harsher charges, but Patterson was mistakenly allowed to leave the country. In 2006, a Seoul court ordered the South Korean government to pay the victim’s family the equivalent of $34,000 for mistakes made in handling the case.