Denver • A Denver jury on Friday found businessman Joong Rhee guilty of second-degree murder in the brutal bludgeoning of his business partner nearly three years ago.
Jurors could have convicted him of anything up to first-degree murder, with which he had been charged, in the case that led investigators to the Utah desert where Rhee had dumped the body.
Prosecutors said Rhee, 68, smashed Hae C. Park’s skull after filing a deed of trust that said Park would surrender title to the Riverside Inn in Moab if he didn’t pay Rhee $300,000 he was owed within a year. Rhee, prosectors said, needed the money to get out of a mountain of debt.
Rhee didn’t file the deed with Grand County, Utah, until two days before Park disappeared on March 27, 2010. Rhee dumped Park’s body along Interstate 70 near Cisco, Utah. A motorist walking his dog found the remains about three weeks later.
Rhee’s attorney argued he and the 64-year-old Park, who was angry that Rhee had filed the deed of trust and planned to sell the land, got into a physical fight, and Rhee smashed his head against a table in an act of self-defense.
The two-week trial, which ended in a day of jury deliberations, was the second for Rhee. A trial in September ended in a hung jury.
Rhee will be sentenced on March 21 and could face up to 48 years in prison, the Denver District Attorney’s office said Friday.