• Prime suspect for 1988 murder is academic advisor at Western Washington University, CBS reports

    By: KIRO 7 News Staff

    Updated:

    BELLINGHAM, Wash. - The prime suspect for a 1988 murder in South Korea is currently an academic advisor at Western Washington University in Bellingham, CBS News reports and, because of legal loopholes, the murder case remains open. 

    Kathy Patrick is an academic advisor at Western Washington University, where she works with students daily. She’s also the prime suspect in the murder of Carolyn Abel, according to "48 Hours" which airs Saturday night on KIRO 7.

    Both Patrick and Abel were teaching English in 1988 when Abel was stabbed to death. 

    Patrick was back in the United States by the time Korean police issued a warrant for her arrest, according to CBS. 

    “They believe Kathy Patrick murdered Carolyn Abel, but at this point there’s really nothing that can be done,” "48 Hours investigative" reporter Peter Van Sant, who has been working on the story for three years, told KIRO 7’s John Knicely on Friday. 

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    KIRO 7 asked Van Sant how Patrick can be a prime suspect in a murder in Korea while working in the United States.

    “In 1988 and 1989, there was no extradition treaty between South Korea and the United States,” Van Sant said. 

    While Patrick could not be sent back, she agreed to meet with federal prosecutors in Seattle.

    “And during the course of that, she was given a lie detector test, in which she failed that test,” Van Sant said. “But a problem back in those days was, if an American killed an American overseas, she could not be tried in the U.S. for that murder. So she couldn't be sent back to South Korea and couldn't be tried in the United States.” 

    Because of the legal loopholes, Carolyn Abel’s family fears they’ll never get justice.

    “My sister never got to live her life. Why does Kathy get to live a full life?” Wanda Abel, Carolyn Abel’s sister, told CBS.

    On Friday afternoon, Western Washington University sent the following statement to KIRO 7: 

    "Kathryn Patrick is a program coordinator at Western Washington University, and has worked at Western since 2000. During her 18 years of service at Western, the University has had no concerns. The University asks that her privacy as a Western employee be respected. An assessment by University officials shows no evidence of a current threat to Western students, faculty or staff. University officials will continue to monitor the situation." 

    KIRO 7 will continue to update this story as more information becomes available. 

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