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Samurai Sword Murderers Sentenced For Family, NASA Scientist Slayings

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Two men convicted of murdering five people, including a NASA scientist, with a samurai sword and a baseball bat in Quartz Hill in 2008 were sentenced today.

Jae Shim, 46, was sentenced to life in prison without parole, and Steve Kwon, 45, got 125 years to life, according to City News Service.

"These crimes were hideous ... They were brutal beyond belief,'' Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler said in court today before their sentencing.

Kwon and Shim each pleaded guilty to the June 23, 2008 killing rampage earlier this year. The victims of the disturbing slayings were Shim's 34-year-old ex-wife, Jenny Young Park; her boyfriend, 34-year-old Si Young Yoon; her 13-year-old daughter Jamie; her 11-year-old son Justin; and her cousin's husband, 60-year-old NASA engineer, Joseph Ciganek. Prosecutors said Kwon bludgeoned the victims with a baseball bat in Ciganek's home in Quartz Hill, a city just southwest of Lancaster, and then Shim finished them off with a samurai sword. They then set Park and her two children on fire. Yoon's body was dumped in Mexico.

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Shim pleaded guilty to the murders and arson in February, and admitted to the special circumstance allegations of murder while lying in wait. He then agreed to testify against Kwon so that he could avoid the death penalty, according to the AP. Kwon would plead guilty to the murders and arson in July.

Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman with the Major Crimes Division said in July that Shim was angered by the fact that his ex-wife and Yoon had recently become engaged, and then asked Kim, a longtime friend from Korea, to help him murder them. They also meant to kill Ciganek's wife, but she wasn't home at the time of the slayings.

"It's horrific," Silverman said. "Five people were bludgeoned and stabbed to death, and the mother and her two children were piled onto a bed and set on fire to the point they were unrecognizable and had to be identified through dental records."

Silverman said in court that Shim and Kwon meant to frame Yoon, who was a tae kwon do instructor, for the murders, and planned to bury him in the Angeles National Forest. However, they made a wrong move and inadvertently left the murder weapons in the home before they set the place on fire. They decided to change their plans and flee to Mexico, where they dumped Yoon's body, but then their car got stuck in the desert and they got lost, Silverman said. Mexican police found them near the border and took them to Douglas, Ariz., where they were arrested.

Yoon's body was only found recently after Shim provided information to authorities leading them to his remains, which were in a bag in Mexico.

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During the sentencing today, Yoon's family members spoke about their loss. Yoon's mother, Ok-Soon Yoon, who had left her son's room untouched for years, said, "Over seven years of time, I had no idea what happened to my son. Now I have no choice of accepting the fact that he is gone and dead.''

Yoon's sister SiJeong Yoon yelled at Shim and Kwon, "You deserve to die!"

Silverman also said that Shim and Park were in the middle of a custody battle for their son. Park had moved into Ciganek's house after her divorce from Shim because she was close with her cousin.