LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. (AP) — A woman whose body was found in the trunk of a car in Georgia had come from South Korea to start anew and ease her depression, but instead was subjected to beatings and ice baths while being initiated into a religious group, police said Thursday.
Sehee Cho, 33, tried to leave the group, but one of the defendants charged with her murder told investigators that once the initiation process started, there was no getting out, Gwinnett County police homicide Det. Angela Carter said.
Carter testified in court at a preliminary hearing for five of the seven defendants facing murder charges in Cho's death. Police discovered the woman's decaying body in September in a car parked outside a popular spa in the Atlanta suburb of Duluth.
At least some of the defendants referred to themselves as members of the group called “Soldiers of Christ,” according to police. Investigators who searched the home where Cho was held found clothing with the initials “SOC” on it, Carter said.
Cho was held in the basement, where Carter said the group had built a “mini-church.”
Investigators have interviewed the defendants, reviewed photos and video on their cellphones and gone through their messages. In one, Cho — who the defendants called “Number 5”— gets into a big ice water bath, she said.
“She's having issues breathing,” Carter said.
Investigators believe she died between mid and late August.
Police have gone through messages the defendants sent in Korean and interviewed Cho's mother, who lives in South Korea and said her daughter went to the U.S. to try to recover from a traumatic incident that had left her depressed, according to Carter.