Body of Junseok Chae found in landfill On July 17, two arrests made, charges filed

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Ms. Phoenix (Flickr)

Maricopa County Court House

Ivana Venema-Nunez , Reporter

Two teens are facing charges of first-degree murder, armed robbery, and theft of means of transportation after the remains of Junseok Chae, an Arizona State University engineering professor, were found on July 17 in a landfill northwest of Phoenix.

According to a statement by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, Chae was reported missing On March 25 after not showing up for work at Arizona State University.  Five days later, Chae’s vehicle was found in Louisiana, according to Oxygen Crime News.

Javian Ezell and Gabrielle Austin, both 18, were arrested by Shreveport police because they were allegedly in possession of Chae’s vehicle.

“The suspects admitted that they were actually going to rob him and they said a struggle ensued and then obviously he was murdered,” Maricopa County Sheriff’s Sgt. Joaquin Enriquez told Oxygen.com. 

According to Oxygen, evidence recovered from the scene which matched statements the pair made in their confessions lead authorities to believe that Chae was likely killed near Carefree Highway and 7th Street in Maricopa County.  It appears that Ezell and Austin disposed of the 46-year-old professor’s body in a dumpster, after his murder.

“They corroborated that information,” Enriquez added. “We found evidence there linking them.”

Because of their arrests in Louisiana, they have since been extradited back to Arizona on $1 million bond each.  Details of the exact cause of death in Chae’s suspected murder is still pending, authorities said. 

The search began in mid-May at the Northwest Regional Landfill near Surprise, Arizona about 30 miles northwest of Phoenix where remains were found and confirmed to be Chae.

Chae received his bachelor’s degree in metallurgical engineering in 1998 at the Korea University in South Korea. He then obtained his master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan in the early 2000s.

Chae worked as an associate dean at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU.  He had authored hundreds of journal articles on a variety of subjects ranging from pulmonary disease to miniaturised biomedical wireless sensor systems and genetic circuits.  He also holds a number of U.S. patents, according to Oxygen.

A spokesperson for Arizona State University said in a statement to Oxygen, “We are saddened by the loss of ASU community member Junseok Chae. Our condolences go out to professor Chae’s family and friends.”