System failed Sunny Park, psychologist says
Wife and son put at risk due to lack of safeguards, expert tells inquest

Cindy E. Harnett
Victoria Times Colonist

Monday, May 05, 2008

Sunny Park is interviewed by police after being injured in July 2007 car crash.

The system failed Sunny Park and her family, stabbed to death in a mass murder-suicide in Oak Bay last year, Ontario clinical psychologist Lori Haskell told a coroner's inquest today.

"It seems like the system failed," Haskell said in an interview after her testimony.

Haskell testified that the police should have devised a safety plan for Sunny Park and that Crown counsel should have detained Lee longer to do a comprehensive risk assessment of the likelihood he would do himself or his family harm.

"These are two glaring deficits in this case," Haskell said.

On July 31, 2007, Peter Lee rammed his Land Rover into a utility pole. His wife, Park, told police that Lee intentionally crashed the car in an effort to kill her - witnesses to the scene agreed - and that Lee had previously abused her, and that she feared for her life.

On videotape of a police interview with Park after the crash, Haskell said Park describes her life of violence with Lee, calmly, as if resigned to it, but that her fear escalates at the end of the tape, when she asks the police several times where Lee will go if he's released and expresses fear that he will hurt her family. These fears should have been addressed, Haskell said.

Five weeks later, on Sept. 4, the 38-year-old Lee would kill Park, 32, their son Christian, 6, and her parents, Kum Lea Chun, 59, and Moon Kyu Park, 66. Stabbing them more than 100 times collectively before turning his military issue knife on himself.

Victoria police did believe Lee was a risk to Park and her family and didn't want him released on bail, but in discussions with crown counsel realized they had a weak case - because Lee denied the accusation and said he simply turned his head and his vehicle swerved unintentionally. As well, Crown counsel explained he had roots in the community - having a business and house - was not a high flight risk, and was not a substantial risk to harm anyone.

But Lee easily racked up 10 to 12 risk factors as determined by the Domestic Violence Death Review Committee, which has studied 60 homicides in Ontario, Haskell said. That's the determination police and Crown should have relied upon more heavily, she said.

. Actual or pending separation

Sunny Park told Lee she wanted a divorce and was firm

. History of domestic violence

Park told investigators he had hit her in the past, pounded her head in to the floor, kicked her down the stairs, hit her in the face

. Escalation of violence

Park told police Lee intentionally crashed the car into a utility pole on July 31 an effort to kill her

. Obsessive behavior by perpetrator

Lee accused her of flirting with restaurant guests because she spoke with them in Korean, which he couldn't understand very well as Lee moved to Canada from Korea at age 8. He eventually accused her of having an affair.

. Prior threats to kill victim

Lee had threatened to kill everybody, including himself, when she maintained she was certain she wanted to divorce him

. Prior attempts to isolate victim

Lee didn't want his wife speaking with restaurant guests in such a friendly manner, wanted her parents to return to Korea and wanted her sister out of the house and blamed them for his troubles

. Prior attempts to commit suicide

Lee told his wife if he could buy a gun he might kill himself

(UBC psychologist Don Dutton told the coroner's inquest heard today that when divorce happens, 53 men out of 1 million will kill their partner while 4,000 per million will kill themselves)

. Access to or possession of firearms

As a Canadian Forces part-time navy fleet diver, Lee had a military issue knife. Park told police he always carried a knife in his jacket pocket and one in his car

. History of violence outside the home

Lee was facing charges of aggravated assault and unlawful confinement for a bizarre case in which he tortured a Richard Park of Victoria in July 2006. The case was to come to court in Oct. 24, 2007, and in 2005 a female employees alleged Lee grabbed her by the throat in one instance and in another slashed her right hand in the restaurant. Those charges were stayed when she moved away and the Crown couldn't locate her.

ceharnett@tc.canwest.com