From the beginning, the case of identical twins Jeen “Gina” Han and Sunny Han was destined for tabloid headlines, a story of greed, hatred and family strife.
Irvine police even referred to them as "the evil twin and good twin."
The case received international headlines, with authorities saying Jeen Han plotted to kill her sister, Sunny Han, who had helped authorities mount a prosecution against her for her involvement in the theft of cash and credit cards from people in the San Diego area.
Jeen Han, now 43, has spent the last 19 years behind bars. But that might soon change.
Here’s the story of the sensational case from the pages of The Times:
A plot to kill her twin
Jeen Han and two teenage accomplices were convicted in 1998 of conspiracy to commit murder and other crimes for the attack in 1996 on Sunny Han and her then-roommate, Helen Kim. The young women were bound and gagged in their Irvine apartment moments before police burst in to rescue them.
The twins, who were co-valedictorians of their high school class in Campo, 40 miles east of San Diego, had become estranged in following years. By November 1996, Jeen was convinced that Sunny had some of her belongings and wouldn't return them. A murder plot, prosecutors contended, was hatched.
Co-defendants Archie Bryant, 18, and John Sayarath, 16, posed as magazine salesmen to get into Sunny Han's apartment. She was in her bedroom at the time and heard her roommate Kim scuffling with the men. She used her cellphone to call 911 before the two teens burst into her bedroom and tied her up.
“But for Sunny Han miraculously having a cell phone on her person when Gina Han’s accomplices stormed the apartment, this would have most certainly been a first degree murder, if not a double-homicide,” prosecutors wrote last week in a letter opposing Han’s release.
Prosecutors at the time said Jeen Han had been telling people for days that she wanted her sister dead and was trying to recruit someone to help her do it. The sisters had been feuding earlier in the year and Sunny punched Jeen in the face and had her arrested on allegations of using her credit cards and taking her car.
After her arrest on the theft charges, Jeen Han escaped from a San Diego jail during a work furlough. She was arrested in Irvine in connection with attack on her sister.
‘I had absolutely no intent to kill my twin sister’
Jeen Han was convicted in 1998 along with her accomplices.
While in custody, she tried to take her own life with sleeping pills.
Finally, in court, she spoke out for the first time.
"I am deeply sorry for everything that has happened," she said in a soft voice. "I am truly sorry." The woman said that "despite the circumstances, I had absolutely no intent to kill my twin sister. Sunny is my flesh and blood."
Han, who was born in South Korea, also apologized to the Korean American community, which had waged a campaign for leniency in her sentencing and submitted 17,000 signatures to the court.
Han reserved her final remarks for Sunny.
"I just want my sister to know that I love her very much," she said.
Sunny Han was not in court.
After 19 years, getting out of prison?
The parole board recommended release for Jeen Han, now 43. Gov. Jerry Brown will have final say on upholding or rejecting parole during a review period, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office.
But according to prosecutors, who cited a parole board psychologist’s diagnosis that Han has borderline personality disorder with antisocial traits, Han “continues to pose an unreasonable risk of danger to society.”
Though Han submitted letters from men in the U.S. and abroad that suggested she had a plan after her release, prosecutors said the correspondences pointed to her continued ability to manipulate.
“In just writing letters to them, she ‘facilitated’ them in offering her money, lodging, jobs, and with regard to a gentleman in England, even giving her $100,000 after only corresponding with her for 12 months. This manipulative ability is not surprising, given her extreme intelligence coupled with an untreated personality disorder,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Nikki Chambers wrote in her letter to the governor. “The fact remains that she is still flexing the manipulation muscles that she used when she recruited two young men to murder her sister, and they appear to be as keen as they were in 1996.”
10:20 a.m.: This article was updated with comments from the Orange County district attorney’s office.
This article was originally published at 8 a.m.