Agent: Unnerved by inconsistencies, Snider confessed
SEOUL — An American woman charged with killing her coed friend buckled after being confronted with inconsistencies in her statements by U.S. agents, confessing to the crime, a U.S. Army special agent testified in South Korean court Thursday.
Kenzi Noris Elizabeth Snider, 21, of St. Cloud, Minn., eventually confessed after she was perplexed by facts agents noticed weren’t consistent with her story, Army Criminal Investigation Command agent Mark Mansfield testified.
Mansfield flew from Fort Leavenworth, Kan., to South Korea after being summoned by the court. Snider is charged with unintentionally injuring a person resulting in death and could face a maximum of 15 years in prison.
She’s accused of stomping Jamie Lynn Penich, 21, of Derry Township, Pa., in a Seoul motel room near Yongsan Garrison. U.S. Army special agents — known as CID — investigated because some soldiers were close to Penich when she was killed on March 18, 2001, in Itaewon.
Even after all soldiers were cleared, CID and FBI agents remained on the case. Following Penich’s death, Snider returned to West Virginia, where she was attending school.
Mansfield and FBI agent Lee Sung-kyu, who is stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, questioned Snider in a Ramada Inn in Huntington, W.Va., for three days in February 2002. Snider originally told investigators she last had contact with Penich after calling to her in the bathroom while Penich was showering.
Evidence showed that the shower had not been used. Agents also found it was not possible to hear someone answer from outside the bathroom, according to Mansfield’s testimony.
After being confronted by agents in the interview, Snider left the room but returned moments later, accusing her questioners of knowing before about the inconsistencies.
“We asked her to sit down, and she subsequently confessed,” Mansfield told the four-judge panel.
In that confession, Snider said Penich tried to take off Snider’s pants. According to the FBI, Snider hit Penich, dragged her out of the bathroom and smothered her with her shoes, eventually suffocating Penich.
In court, Mansfield agreed with the prosecutor’s version of events: Snider told agents that she became angry because, when she was 4, her brother’s friends had tried to take off her pants.
During previous court sessions, Snider said she confessed because agents kept telling her that her version of events was incorrect. Snider affirmed she made a comment to her attorney that she was a scapegoat designed to protect U.S. soldiers who may have committed the crime.
Mansfield testified that Snider voluntarily gave agents three pieces of clothing, including pants and a shirt, but no traces of Penich’s blood were found. The shoes Snider wore the night of the crime were not recovered, Mansfield said.
Based on blood-stained footprints found in the motel room, Korean police have said the killer wore a size 9 or 10 Skechers-brand shoe. Snider wears a women’s size 9 or men’s size 7, according to her mother, Heath Bozonie, who is staying in Korea through the end of the trial.
Snider faces another hearing June 5.
— Choe Song-won contributed to this report.