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.
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."
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.
"It was a dead lead," Barron says.
But another break was on the way.
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