The prime suspect in the murder of an American teacher while living in Seoul, South Korea, in 1988 speaks publicly about the case for the first time in 30 years in 48 HOURS: “Out of Reach” to be broadcast Saturday, March 9 (10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Peter Van Sant and 48 HOURS investigate the murder of Carolyn Abel 30 years ago in South Korea and the loophole in U.S. laws that means the suspected killer may never face trial. It is an emotional story about a family and friends, struggling with loss, and the ensuing frustration that the alleged killer may never be brought to justice.
Abel, an English teacher, was found brutally murdered in her Seoul apartment. Her home was ransacked, and it looked like a robbery gone bad.
“I think we all just felt like, ‘What the hell’s going to happen now?’” says Nancy Bercaw, a friend who was also teaching English there. “‘Are we in danger?’”
John Boatwright, a chief of detective from the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, was brought in to help South Korean investigators. He was convinced the killer knew Abel. He got a tip to interview the two American teachers who found Abel: Sandra Ames and Kathy Patrick. Patrick had already returned home to Washington State, but Ames was still in Seoul. In his interview with Ames, she told him that the night of the murder, Patrick had confessed to killing Abel, and the two of them returned to the scene to make it look like a robbery. Ames ultimately pleaded guilty to several crimes tied to the cover-up. Patrick, however, left South Korea before investigators could question her further.
“Who do you believe held the knife and murdered Carolyn Abel?” Van Sant asks Boatwright.
“Kathy Patrick,” Boatwright says.
“We were so sure the enemy was on the outside that it never occurred to any of us that the killer was among us,” Bercaw says.
South Korean officials issued a warrant for Patrick’s arrest, but U.S. officials were powerless to enforce it. The two countries lacked an extradition treaty at the time.
48 HOURS: “Out of Reach” features interviews with Abel’s family and friends, investigators and Van Sant also talk with Patrick, who is now living in Washington State.
“Investigators in two countries are certain that you murdered Carolyn Abel. What do you have to say?” Van Sant asks Patrick.
“I have to say that I’m innocent,” Patrick says.
Will Abel’s family find justice for their loved one?
“My sister never got to live her life,” says Wanda Abel. “Why does Kathy get to live a full life?”
48 HOURS: “Out of Reach” is produced by Chris O’Connell and Lauren Clark. Gilad Thaler and Lindsey Schwartz are the field producers. Mike Baluzy, Maria Barrow, Jack Pyle, Phil Tangel and Marcus Balsam are the editors. Gayle Zimmerman is the senior producer. Anthony Batson is the senior broadcast producer. Nancy Kramer is the executive story editor. Judy Tygard is the executive producer.