Six people who identified themselves as members of a religious group called the ‘Soldiers of Christ’ have been arrested in connection to the death of a South Korean woman who was beaten and starved in Georgia, authorities said.
The victim was a woman in her 20s or 30s and weighed approximately 70 pounds when she was discovered Tuesday evening in the trunk of a car parked outside of Jeju Sauna, a popular South Korean spa located in Duluth, about 25 miles north of Atlanta, the Gwinnett County Police Department said in a news release.
Duluth’s population is nearly a quarter Asian, according to the US Census Bureau.
The medical examiner’s office believes malnourishment could be a contributing factor to the woman’s death, but the exact cause of death is still under investigation, according to police.
The woman is thought to have been subjected to beatings and malnourishment for weeks, the department said. Detectives believe the woman moved to the United States from South Korea during the summer of this year “for the purpose of joining a religious organization,” the agency said.
Law enforcement officers found the woman in the trunk of a car after one of the suspects, 26-year-old Eric Hyun, parked his car in a parking lot and got picked up by a family member, police said.
Hyun later asked his family member to retrieve something in his vehicle where the woman was being kept. When the family member found her body in the trunk, they called 911, the department said.
Authorities then conducted a search of a home associated with the vehicle where they allege the woman’s body was found. Police say the “Soldiers of Christ” beat and kept the victim in the home until her death, but they did not specify when the woman likely died.
In addition to Hyun, the suspects were identified by police as Gawom Lee, 26; Joonho Lee, 26; Hyunji Lee, 25; and Juoonhyum Lee, 22. One of the arrested individuals is a 15-year-old, police said. CNN is not naming the juvenile who has been charged as an adult.
They all face charges of felony murder, false imprisonment, tampering with evidence and concealing the death of another, according to police.
CNN has not been able to identify attorneys for the six suspects for comment.
The South Korean consulate in Atlanta declined to comment on the case when contacted by CNN.
One of the suspects is a South Korean citizen visiting on a visa, authorities said, while the others are American citizens.
Police released photos of the basement that appear to show a storage room with laundry and other supplies neatly arranged on shelves. The carpet of the room has large areas of blood, which have been redacted in the photos provided by the department.
Authorities did not release the name of the victim, pending notification of her death to her family in South Korea.
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