Two Teens Arrested After Missing Arizona Professor's Remains Located in Landfill
Arizona State University Professor Junseok Chae was first reported missing on March 25
Two teenagers have been arrested on suspicion of murder after the remains of a missing Arizona State University professor were located in a landfill in Surprise, Arizona.
Junseok Chae, an associate dean for research at ASU’s School of Engineering, was first reported missing on March 25 when he didn’t return home from work, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said on Friday in a statement, which was obtained by PEOPLE.
On March 30, MSCO detectives were contacted by authorities in Shreveport, Louisiana, who contacted Javian Ezell and Gabrielle Austin, both 18, as well as a third individual who has not been identified, in response to a "suspicious vehicle call." Officers went on to determine the vehicle belonged to the professor and "obtained statements from the individuals which led them to believe Chae may have been the victim of a homicide."
Authorities went on to determine that "Chae’s body was placed in a dumpster by the suspects and was ultimately deposited in the Northwest Regional Landfill," police said in the statement.
Although police began searching the dump in Surprise on May 11, they did not discover any human remains or "related evidence" for 48 days, until July 17. Following the discovery, Ezell and Austin were arrested.
“I continue to be impressed by the hard work of our deputies. Their perseverance in an extremely complex and demanding case will now allow the victim’s family closure to what has surely been a difficult period. Investigative efforts to recover a body from a landfill are rarely successful,” Sheriff Paul Penzone said in the statement.
Ezell and Austen were extradited to Arizona and are now in the Maricopa County Jail being held on $1 million bonds. They face first-degree murder, armed robbery and theft of means of transportation charges.
Chae joined the ASU faculty in 2005 after receiving his undergraduate degree from Korea University in Seoul, as well as his master’s degree and doctorate from the University of Michigan, according to the university’s website. He has been published more than 150 times, authored one book and held four U.S. patents.
In a Reddit post in May, a former student of Chae’s wrote that their engineering class “was never told what happened to him until the end of the semester” when a new professor informed them that he was missing.
“He was a really nice man and really cared about the students learning and if the worst has happened then ASU lost a top notch professor,” the student wrote.