Korean police: Major argued with, punched wife
August 15, 2003
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — A U.S. Army major allegedly told South Korean police he argued with his wife and punched her in the face three days before he was seen dumping her body off a bridge near Incheon International Airport early Tuesday morning.
Maj. Richard Hart, 45, answered few other questions after he was observed dumping the nude body of his wife, Patricia Ann Hart, 52, off the Yongjong Bridge around 3:40 a.m., said Detective Oh Hui-sok of the Criminal Case Division at Incheon Soboo Police Station.
The bridge — used by vehicles going to and from the airport — spans a long tidal plain and typically is empty of traffic in the early-morning hours.
Oh said Hart was questioned by Korean police through a translator. Hart told police he punched his wife after an argument Saturday, Oh said.
Hart subsequently left the house and returned the same day, Oh said, adding that Hart indicated he saw his wife lying on the floor and left again.
Hart returned to the house late Monday or early Tuesday, and his wife’s body was still lying on the floor, Oh said.
Hart, who came to South Korea on June 26 and lives in Itaewon, denied killing his wife and abandoning her body, Oh said.
Incheon Airport Highway Patrol officers observed Hart attempting to dump a large plastic bag off the bridge over water. Under police observation, Oh said, Hart drove his Kia Pride a short distance from the first spot and threw the body — wrapped in plastic and duct tape — off the bridge, where it fell onto a piece of land.
Afterward, Hart’s car broke down about 320 yards down the road. Police approached and arrested him around 4 a.m. He was turned over to U.S. Army custody later Tuesday, officials said.
Because the incident involves two people covered by the U.S.-South Korean Status of Forces Agreement, the United States has the first option to prosecute wherever a crime occurred, said Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, an 8th Army spokesman.
Hart’s wife was visiting, as the officer was serving an unaccompanied tour in South Korea, Boylan said.
Hart currently is being held by the U.S. Army, Boylan said, and is under 24-hour observation. The Army’s Criminal Investigation Command is looking into the incident, Boylan said Wednesday, and no charges have been filed.
Hart was identified by South Korean police as working for the Combined Forces Command, the U.S.-South Korean war-fighting command. But Boylan could only say that Hart was an Army officer assigned to U.S. Forces Korea.
Patricia Hart’s body was transferred to Sinsegae Funeral Services in Incheon. An autopsy will be conducted at Yongsan Garrison’s morgue once an official from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner’s office arrives from Okinawa, Boylan said, adding that he did not know when the results would be released.
— Choe Song-won and Joseph Giordono contributed to this report.