Court TV Presents: Murder in Room 103: The Death of an American Student in Korea--and the Investigators' Search for the Truth

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Harper Collins, Oct 13, 2009 - True Crime - 304 pages

Exchange student Jamie Penich left her small Pennsylvania hometown to see the world, but her journey ended with a brutal attack in a shabby motel room in Seoul, South Korea, where the raven-haired 21-year-old was found naked and stomped to death. Investigators zeroed in on soldiers, turning out barracks and trolling seedy bars for the GIs who partied with Jamie in the hours leading up to her death. But every lead produced only new mysteries. There were unbreakable alibis, a roommate who claimed she had slept through the crime, and lab tests that hinted at a secret lover. The investigation seemed destined for the cold case file until a high-powered American senator pressed for answers. Soon, a greenhorn detective settled on a shocking new suspect, a pretty blonde exchange student named Kenzi Snider. During an interrogation, the teenager confessed to killing Jamie during a lesbian encounter . . . but it was what happened next that was truly surprising.

What really happened in Room 103?


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User Review  - matthew254 - LibraryThing

Murder in Room 103 might appear to be a cheap true-crime garbage novel better suited for soaking up spills with its low budget cover and pseudo-tantalizing title but I urge you to read it. It's much ... Read full review

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One day this case will be solved thanks to this effort by Harriet Ryan. About five years ago, one of my students in my criminal investigations class asked me if people do actually falsely confess and cited this case as the example. The answer of course is yes, particularly young people falsely confess all the time. It is hard to imagine how this happens, but if the right elements are there false confessions happen.
I have used this book as a template to research this case. I have travelled twice to the site with my students and took a look at the critical elements. I have also corresponded with a number of key persons in this case.
Here are a few working ideas:
1) It looks like the assumed cause of death was wrong. The working theory was that this was a stomping death. When all of the elements are examined in context, wringing or compressive asphyxsia seems to be the primary cause of death. This is a classic military style of killing. There was a long football shaped bruise on Ms. Penich's back, across her shoulder blades. There were also kneecap and shin type bruises on her chest. These injuries were likely caused as a knee pressed into her chest from above as her back was pressed against the three inch high step that exists between the small foyer area and the bed area of the room.
2) This death looks like violence one would see with college frequented bars across the US. There is a specific alcohol-lust-rejection-violence cycle that is pattern to these crimes. Young people drink, get lustful, when rejection occurs (usually the sobered female rejects), violence then occurs.
3) Given the autopsy drawings, Penich was likley forced to her knees, which caused scrapes. Since she did not cry out, she likely knew her attacker. It is likley that one of the guys she met at the bar did this.


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