Louisiana teens charged with murder of Arizona professor after 48-day search revealed remains at landfill site
Four months after he went missing, two 18-year-olds Javian Ezell and Gabrielle Austin and a third unnamed man were caught driving professor Junseok Chae's vehicle
SHREVEPORT, LOUISIANA: Two Louisiana teenagers have been charged with the murder of an Arizona professor. The man had vanished four months ago and his remains were finally found at a landfill site after a 48-day search.
Reported missing on March 25, Junseok Chae didn't return home from work at Arizona State University. One week later, his car was found in Louisiana. On March 30, Javian Ezell and Gabrielle Austin, both 18, were caught driving the professor's vehicle. There was also a third unnamed person with them, but these two have been charged with Chae's murder. Their statements to the police led them to believe Chae had been killed and thus began search on the landfill back in May 11.
After a search that has cost hundreds of thousands of dollars with an average of 15 people per day sifting through the site, human remains were finally found on July 17 in the Northwest Regional Landfill, it was soon identified as the professor. Neither a motive nor a manner of death has been revealed yet.
The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office was alerted by a call from police in Shreveport, Louisiana, on March 30. When officers responded to a 'suspicious' vehicle call, they soon discovered it was the professor's car. Speaking with Ezell and Austin led cops to believe Chae had been killed in Maricopa County. The investigation also found 'several items of evidence' there. Further investigation revealed Chae had been murdered Carefree Highway and Seventh Street. ABC News also revealed that authorities believe the body was put in a dumpster and then sent to the landfill.
Despite coming across 'related evidence' on May 11, it took the police more than a month to finally find the body. The 48-day search of the landfill cost the sheriff's office $304,000, reports the Arizona Central about the 15 people, 10-hour a day search. "I continue to be impressed by the hard work of our deputies," said Sheriff Penzone in a statement. "Their perseverance in an extremely complex and demanding case will now allow the victim’s family closure to what has surely been a difficult period. Investigative efforts to recover a body from a landfill are rarely successful."
Ezell and Austin who have been extradited from Louisiana to Arizona to face their charges, were booked on first-degree murder, armed robbery, and vehicle theft on Friday, with bail set at $1million each.
Chae was an accomplished educator, graduated from Korea University in Seoul in 1998. He joined ASU as a professor in 2005 at the School of Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering. He was also an associate dean for research at ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Chae had two advanced degrees from the University of Michigan, held four patents, and had also published more than 150 academic papers, and even authored a book. "We are saddened by the loss of ASU community member Junseok Chae," the university said in a statement. "Our condolences go out to Professor Chae’s family and friends."