Man pleads guilty to murder in 2008 slaying of ex-wife, her relatives

Man pleads guilty to five murder counts in slaying of ex-wife and her relatives

A Palmdale man pleaded guilty Wednesday to murder and arson charges in the June 2008 slayings of his ex-wife, her boyfriend, her two children and another relative.

Dressed in blue jail scrubs and with his hands cuffed behind his back in a downtown L.A. courtroom, Jae Hwan Shim, 45, admitted to burning down the house to cover up the bloody murder scene and to using a samurai sword and baseball bat in the murders.

When a prosecutor asked him how he pleaded to each of the charges, Shim, who spoke through a Korean translator, responded: "Guilty" and "I am guilty."

By pleading guilty to the charges and agreeing to testify against his co-defendant – Steve Kwon, 44 – prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty for Shim. Shim faces five consecutive sentences of life without parole, the district attorney's office said.

If convicted, Kwon also faces a sentence of life without the possibility of parole, the D.A.'s office said.

Shim and Kwon were taken into custody a few days after the 2008 slayings when Mexican police found them near the border. 

Shim and Kwon are accused of killing Joseph Paul Ciganek, a 60-year-old NASA engineer and owner of the house; Jenny Young Park, 34, her children Jamie, 13, and Justin, 11; and her boyfriend, Si Young Yoon, 34. 

As part of the plea, Shim gave authorities information that led them to Yoon's body, which was found in Mexico in December. 

Park and her children went to live with Ciganek and his wife, Jocelyn, after the breakup of her marriage. Jocelyn Ciganek was Park's cousin.

Prosecutors previously said Shim has a history of domestic violence. Shim, who was not the father of the two children killed, won’t be sentenced until the case against Kwon is completed.

For more news from the Los Angeles County criminal courts, follow @marisagerber

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