Salpointe classmates focus on positive memories of slain teenby Susan Carroll on Aug. 09, 1999, under News
SUSAN CARROLL Citizen Staff Writer
With quiet resolve, 15-year-old Yuri Kim parted the heavy wooden doors of the Salpointe Catholic High School chapel and moved into a circle of tearful friends and classmates.
She clutched a single red rose and cried in their arms, less than 48 hours after witnessing her mother’s and 17-year-old sister’s murders. Yuri Kim offered a slight condolence to the more than 100 high school students, parents and church members packed in the airy chapel.
”At least she’s safe now,” she said of her sister, Sophia Kim, who was killed, apparently by her estranged boyfriend before he turned the gun on himself.
Lane ”Tommy” Somphounout, 29, was facing a sexual criminal complaint and was ”upset about the ending” of his two-year relationship with Bo-Young ”Sophia” Kim, 17, when he broke into the home while carrying a gun at 3 a.m. Saturday, said Pima County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Bradley Foust.
Sophia Kim had discovered a month earlier that Somphounout was leading a double life – one as her boyfriend and another as a married man and father of two young children.
The Kim family had contacted the Sheriff’s Department to press charges against Somphounout on Aug. 3, alleging sexual conduct with a minor, Foust said. The investigation was going on at the time of Sophia Kim’s murder, he said.
After throwing a rock through the back door, Somphounout apparently went into the master bedroom and trained his gun on Sophia and Yuri Kim’s mother, Hyun Sook Kim.
He shot the 37-year-old mother of three in the back before dragging Sophia Kim out of bed and into the bedroom.
”He brought her into the room and said something to the effect of ‘This is how you treat me, this is how you like me, you’re going to die with me,’ ” Foust said.
Yuri Kim saw Somphounout shoot her mother as she crawled on the floor, then shoot her sister before he told her to find her 6-year-old brother and get out of the house, Foust said.
She heard one final gunshot as she fled, calling 911 on a cellular phone, Foust said.
Yesterday, friends of the Kim family packed the campus chapel, where Sophia Kim had celebrated her graduation in May, and remembered the girl and her mother.
Sophia Kim was remembered as a talented golfer, an A student and a loving friend.
She had her plans shaped. She was going to attend the University of Arizona starting Aug. 23 to seek a business degree and become a corporate lawyer.
”She was always so good at everything. She was always challenging me to do my best,” said Yuri Kim, a sophomore at Salpointe. ”She was my motivation.”
The group listened to the song ”Friends” and prayed for the family before an informal sharing session. They prayed for Sophia’s father, Tag Gon Kim, who was informed of the deaths while recovering from gallbladder surgery in South Korea.
Tag Gon Kim is a University of Arizona professor participating in a scholar exchange program in Korea.
Hyun Sook Kim was a hairdresser and acupuncturist.
In the months before the attack, Sophia Kim’s friends and family had worried for her safety, said Salpointe graduate Kim Beaman, 17.
Beaman said the family took home a dog for protection and was planning to install a security system.
She said Sophia Kim was ”a little bit” scared of Somphounout toward the end of their relationship.
Somphounout and Sophia Kim met two years ago at a teen night event at the Cactus Moon bar. He told her at the time that he was 17 years old, Foust said.
Beaman spotted bruises on her friend’s petite body in the past few months, but didn’t pry.
”She didn’t say anything,” she said. ”She had a really forgiving heart.”
Beaman, who had been best friends with Sophia Kim since she came from Korea to start high school, supported Kim through the breakup by being there when she cried, renting movies with her and eating ice cream with her.
Beaman said she was shocked to find out about Somphounout’s marriage.
”All his lies – they seemed to fit together,” she said.
Somphounout would attend all the high school events, said Marisa Nido, the mother of a golf teammate of Sophia Kim.
He showed up at the high school football games with his son, who will celebrate his first birthday Aug. 18, sitting on his shoulder. But he told Sophia Kim and her friends the child was his godson, Nido said.
Somphounout put his wife, Dokeo Somphounout, and their two children, both under 2 years old, on a plane to Arkansas on Friday, Foust said.
The couple met when she was 15 and obtained a marriage license when she was 18 and he was 25, according to public records. They had their first child in September 1997.
The wife had separated from Somphounout this month after hearing about his infidelity, friends said.
Detectives had interviewed Sophia Kim earlier in the week to investigate the sex charges. The detectives presented evidence to the Pima County Attorney’s Office but it instructed them to investigate the case further.
Foust said the case ”was not particularly strong” because Sophia Kim was 17 years old and seemed to consent to the relationship.
There was no direct mention of Somphounout inside the chapel yesterday, as the students and community and church members tried to share positive memories of Sophia and Hyun Sook Kim.
”I remember staying up until 2 or 3 the morning, just to talk. She was always there for me . . . I could talk to her about anything. We would share everything,” said Yuri Kim, her voice breaking as she spoke to the large assembly. ”I’m just glad all of you guys had a chance to know her. She was great.”
‘She was always so good at everything. She was always challenging me to do my best. She was my motivation.’
- Yuri Kim, speaking of her sister,
Sophia, who was slain Saturday morning