Screams in courtroom as woman is sentenced for killing her husband

Posted at 10:18 AM, May 2, 2024

DES MOINES, Iowa (Court TV) — As a judge sentenced a former college professor to prison for 10 years, the victim’s family could be heard wailing in the courtroom.

Gowun Park sits in court

Gowun Park sat in court during her sentencing hearing on April 25, 2024. (Court TV/Pool)

Gowun Park pleaded guilty on April 25 to voluntary manslaughter in the death of her husband. Park was initially charged with first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping for killing her husband, Sung Woo Nam, in their West Des Moines home on Feb. 15, 2020. That day, police came to their home after Park called 911 and reported that her husband was unresponsive. Had Park been convicted of first-degree murder, she would have potentially faced life in prison.

In court documents obtained by Court TV, first responders on the scene described Nam as “lying face down on the floor in the office of the home. His lips were blue and he had no vital signs.” Officers also noted ligature marks on the front of his neck and the back of his throat. Nam was pronounced dead at the hospital.

At the scene, Park allegedly admitted to police that she had bound her husband’s hands and feet with zip ties and used a rope to tie him to a chair. Police said she also “stuffed an item of clothing in Mr. Nam’s mouth to prevent him from yelling and placed duct tape over his mouth. She further duct-taped a towel over his head, covering his eyes.” Police said that Park tied her husband up between 10:30 and 11 a.m.; she called 911 at 6:47 p.m.

The case was delayed for years as prosecutors and Park’s defense battled over suppressing statements she made to the police where she initially denied tying her husband up before admitting that she did so at his own request. Park maintained that Nam asked her to tie him up when he was angry and could not control himself. Her defense team has said the victim’s death came “out of a dysfunctional intimate relationship,” and has characterized their client as a victim of domestic abuse.

Booking photo of Gowun Park

Gowun Park was charged with murder and kidnapping in the death of her husband. (Dallas County Sheriff’s Office)

After a successful bond reduction hearing on March 23, 2020, Park was released from jail with extensive restrictions but continued to do work and research as she awaited trial. Park, who has a Ph.D. in economics from the City University of New York, was teaching undergraduate economics classes at Simpson College prior to her arrest.

A series of letters supporting Park was submitted to the court in the days before Thursday’s hearing, including messages from her pastor, domestic violence advocates and fellow professors at Simpson College. The letters describe her as a “person of good manners,” a “kind person,” with a “gentle demeanor” who “endeavors to correct her mistaken thoughts.” Her pastor, Rev. Joseph Jung Suh, said in his letter to the judge, “I believe her good qualities led her to seek help instead of leaving her violent husband, ultimately leading to a tragic outcome.”

Nam’s family delivered emotional victim impact statements at Park’s sentencing, When his photo was shown on a projection screen, a woman began crying uncontrollably in the gallery. Park also addressed the court, saying, “My future has never been more uncertain. I say this, not to ask you for pity, or to define myself only as a victim. I carry sincere grief, remorse and regret for my husband’s death. I did not want to hurt him. I loved him.”

While prosecutors had requested Park be sentenced to 25 years, the judge said he was taking into account Park’s reported history as a domestic violence victim as he sentenced her to 10 years.