The couple accused of killing Hollister’s Yoon Ji in 2017 had a pre-preliminary hearing delayed by a week Thursday.
Sheriff’s authorities discovered Yoon Ji’s body in December. Authorities arrested her husband Sang Ji and his mistress Jung Choi on suspicion of the murder.
Choi in court today was represented by public defender Harry Damkar, and Ji was represented by public defender Greg LaForge. There was a slight delay to the brief hearing due to connection issues with the phone interpreter and the speed at which the interpretation could occur.
A Korean interpreter was on hand through a phone system to aid the suspects’ understanding of the proceedings. Once the interpreter was on the line, however, the hearing was brief. The parties agreed to put off the pre-preliminary hearing until Nov. 8, a week from today.
A pre-preliminary hearing precedes the preliminary examination where a judge will decide if there’s enough evidence for a trial. The preliminary examination is still scheduled for Dec. 3 and Dec. 5, more than a year after the case unfolded. In the meantime, the suspects remain booked at the San Benito County Jail.
The public defender previously attributed delays it to a lack of discovery from the sheriff’s office, while a sheriff’s spokesman has denied discovery has been an issue.
For the San Benito County Sheriff’s Office, which is overseeing the investigation, the mysterious case started Dec. 2 of last year when one of the two daughters – Serena Ji – contacted authorities from Los Angeles where she lives to report her mother as missing after not hearing from her since Nov. 27. On the day before, the daughter had received “an odd message from her father, Sang Ji, stating her mother went to South Korea unexpectedly,” according to a prior sheriff’s office statement.
“She contacted family in South Korea who said the mother was not there, and had not contacted them to go there. The female and her sister were concerned so she drove to Hollister from Los Angeles to confront the father,” according to the sheriff’s office after the arrest in December. The two suspects are awaiting their next court appearance March 23 and remain at the San Benito County Jail on more than $2 million in bail each.
Afterward, Serena Ji filed the missing person’s report on her mother. The sheriff’s office issued a search warrant and served it on Dec. 6. JI and Choi were arrested and booked in the San Benito County Jail on suspicion of murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
Additionally, in a separate civil case, a San Benito County judge has ordered two suspects to pay a total of $40 million to the two daughters of the victim. Catharina Ji and Serena Ji filed the lawsuit in San Benito County Superior Court against their father Sang Ji, 49, of Hollister and Jung Choi, 45, of South Korea.
Judge Harry Tobias ruled against the defaulting defendants in the civil case and ordered them to jointly pay the $40 million sum with $20 million going to each of the two daughters, though the plaintiffs’ attorney James Hann from the Hann Law Firm said he doubts they’ll ever see those amounts. Hann in speaking to San Benito Live noted how damage amounts in such judgments are “independent of ability to pay.”