SEOUL — A 21-year-old American woman accused of killing a coed friend testified in court Thursday that she is a “scapegoat” pegged as a killer to protect U.S. soldiers.

During her first day of trial in Seoul, Kenzi Noris Elizabeth Snider, of St. Cloud, Minn., agreed that she confessed to the killing because Army Criminal Investigation Command and FBI agents kept telling her she was wrong about her version of events. She is accused of killing Jamie Lynn Penich, 20, of Derry Township, Pa., on March 18, 2001, in Seoul.

Snider is charged with unintentionally injuring a person resulting in death, and faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

Snider affirmed in court that she made the scapegoat comment to her South Korean attorney, Om Sang-ik, while in jail about one month ago.

“Remember you said to your lawyer in prison … ‘I’m a scapegoat for them to save the U.S. soldiers,’” asked Om through a translator.

“Yes,” Snider answered.

U.S. Forces Korea spokeswoman Lee Ferguson said the trial is in South Korean court and that it would not be appropriate to comment.

Penich died after a vicious stomping that broke her jaw, knocked her teeth out and compressed her chest in an Itaewon motel room. Penich and Snider were exchange students in Taegu.

Soon after the killing, Snider returned to the United States. Investigators focused on U.S. soldiers, who frequented the Itaewon bar where Snider and Penich spent the night of St. Patrick’s Day. Evidence and an eyewitness pointed to a white male suspect with size 9 or 10 Sketcher-brand shoes.

At least five U.S. soldiers questioned were dismissed by investigators after they could not be linked to the killing.

A CID investigator said he noticed inconsistencies in Snider’s statements and traveled with an FBI agent in February 2002 to Huntington, W.Va., to question her.

After three days of questioning, Snider said that she killed Penich after the latter made sexual advances, according to FBI extradition papers filed by U.S. District Attorney’s office in Charleston, W.Va. Snider was extradited to South Korea in December 2002.

“When I kept telling them the truth, they said I was lying,” Snider said when asked Thursday why she confessed. Attorney Om said Snider believes two U.S. soldiers close to Snider and Penich the night of the killing committed the crime.

During more questioning, Snider agreed it was possible another girl in the room at the time of the killing was drugged. That girl, Anneloes Beverwijk of the Netherlands, said she slept through the killing.

When asked by her attorney, Snider agreed she never was read her rights and was told that if she wanted an attorney present, it would look like she wasn’t cooperating.

She also agreed with her attorney that U.S. soldiers poured alcoholic drinks into her glass. Snider said it is possible drugs may have been involved.

According to Seoul prosecutors, their investigation showed Snider became angry at Penich’s advances because her brother’s friends had abused her when she was 4 years old, the statement said.

FBI papers said Snider hit Penich, causing her to fall in the bathtub. After dragging Penich from the bathroom, Snider “repeatedly trampled down hard on her face, neck and chest area very hard with her shoes on,” the papers said.

— Choe Song-won contributed to this report.

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