Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

LA Forensics: Where There's Smoke...

A Break in the Case

Lon Kim had worn the same Omega watch for 25 years. According to his wife, strapping his timepiece on his arm was a morning ritual. He never left home without it.

Roger Lim as Lon Kim
Roger Lim as Lon Kim

When the police found his body on November 8, he was not wearing his watch.

"We've got a burned body that has no watch," Barron says. "It means that watch is somewhere, which normally is going to mean somebody took it, and if they took it off of him, they kept it, sold it, pawned it or gave it to somebody else."

John Williams as Michael Valentine
John Williams as Michael Valentine

It took a lot of searching, but detectives with the pawn shop detail found a pawn ticket for Lon Kim's watch. A man named Michael Valentine had hocked it a few days after Lon's murder. Under state law, to pawn the watch, Valentine had to show a California identification card and leave a thumbprint on the pawn ticket.

It was the break the detectives had been looking for. None of the other evidence the items recovered from the crime scene they thought were important had panned out. The tire track, which the crime lab said had most likely been made by an Oldsmobile, was useless to the detectives unless they found the tire that left it. Nor had SID found any identifiable fingerprints on the cigarette pack or the plastic bottle. And it turned out that the bail bondsman's matchbook was a marketing tool, just one of hundreds, perhaps thousands that had been passed out around Hawthorn and throughout South Central L.A.

Matchbook Found at Crime Scene
Matchbook Found at Crime Scene

"It was a dead lead," Barron says.

But another break was on the way.

 

Watch this story and many others from the case files of the LAPD's Scientific Investigation Division, which solves crimes using cutting edge forensics. Only on Court TV. Learn more.

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