With law enforcement around him for years, how did an alleged killer slip through the cracks?
COLUMBIA, 1/30/13 (Op Ed) --
Mizzou police officials today announced their choice for murderer of biochemistry professor Jeong Im: Timothy Aaron Hoag
, a hapless chap with a long rap sheet of misdemeanor criminal offenses, traffic tickets, and court fights with everyone from a popular Columbia school teacher to a Social Security administrator
was 35 when he jumped off Columbia's notorious Garagezilla parking garage last year. If he killed Im, as authorities now claim,
he did it in the middle of not one, but two extradition proceedings, and the almost constant embrace of law enforcement
from roughly 2001.
Hoag also upped the violence of his criminal behavior considerably: Im was stabbed to death then burned
in a fiery car blaze inside another garage, on the Mizzou campus Jan. 7, 2005. This publication interviewed witnesses -- and a suspect -- in the case
, but Hoag's name never came up.
Hoag's long arrest record started in 2001 when he was 23
and living on Backwoods Cove, an aptly-named street north of I-70. He was charged with felony stealing and third degree assault
. The Jan. 25-26 arrest came only days after court records say Hoag pled guilty to witness/victim tampering and another assault charge. He was jailed in March 2001 for six months and given 2 years supervised probation.
Hoag was arrested in Dec. 2002
for violating probation. Two years later, he was identified as a "fugitive from justice," court records indicate over Illinois offenses serious enough to merit not one, but two extradition proceedings
It was six months before Im's murder.
One month before
Im's murder, Columbia police arrested Hoag in December 2004 for DWI
. One month after
Im's murder, Hoag pled guilty to unlawful use of drug paraphernalia
. He served 10 days in the Boone County Jail.
Roughly two months after Im's murder, in March 2005, Columbia police arrested Hoag as a "fugitive from justice"
yet again. He was again ordered to surrender to "the appropriate authorities of Pike County, Illinois," this time under order 05-ARWA-750.
The dual extradition proceedings and other arrests bracket the Im murder on a timeline that has Hoag living at 2900 Flora Drive in Columbia
-- another area north of I-70 but light years away from Mizzou -- when Im was killed.
Hoag filed a 2008 lawsuit against Wingert that seemed as hapless as he was: the court ordered it dismissed for his failure to do anything with it. After Hoag's attorney resurrected the floundering case, Boone County judge Kevin Crane dismissed it completely in 2010. There's no indication Hoag ever received a dime from Wingert or her insurance company.
It also raises plenty of questions and unfortunate ironies.
Why didn't authorities get a DNA sample earlier? MU police identified Hoag as the alleged perpetrator from blood taken after his deadly fall, not from any of his many law enforcement encounters.
Did authorities ever succeed in getting him out of Columbia and back to Illinois? And if not, why not? Given the timing of those extradition proceedings, had Hoag left town, Im might still be alive.
Finally, if Hoag killed Dr. Im, why the sudden and gruesome increase in the violence of his crimes? The murder seems like a strange outlier, a wildly deviant blip in the petty criminal career of a man who seemed too careless (he was ticketed multiple times for failure to register his car or keep insurance on it) to get away with Columbia's most high-profile murder for so long.
In fact, if Tim Hoag hadn't committed suicide, he'd probably have gotten away with homicide.
If he killed Dr. Im, that may be the most unfortunate irony of all.