A young man was sentenced in Bethel Superior Court to 45 years in prison for murdering a Korean cab driver a few winters ago. Kyle Motgin pled guilty to murder in the second degree which dropped several other charges. He was 21 years old when he stabbed Young Suk Chong to death on January 31, 2012.
The victim, “Suzi”, as she was known by her friends, was a 54-year-old cab driver working the early morning shift. Wind chills were 55 below zero. Motgin had been drinking and called the Quyana Cab Company from a home in Bethel. The Kuskokwim River was frozen and he wanted a ride downriver 10 miles to the village of Napakiak. Instead of bringing money to pay for the ride, he brought a knife.
Judge Dwayne McConnell spoke at length at the sentencing.
“The kind of injuries that you inflicted are hard to imagine,” McConnell said.
McConnell reviewed the evidence. In Bethel they found glasses, a boot, and blood; inside the SUV cab car in Napakiak, it was another gruesome scene.
“It’s clear to me that she fought, she fought, she fought really hard to stay alive to try to stay alive and he did his best to make sure she didn’t for whatever reason,” McConnell said.
Motgin stabbed Chong too many times to count. He dragged her into the back of the cab and left her body there to freeze. She was found the next day.
In sentencing comments, District Attorney June Stein said Chong was working in Bethel to earn money for her family back home in California. Part of that family is her daughter Alisha McGinty who addressed the court in person.
“My mom is the rock of my family and my extended family. Not only only financially but emotionally,” McGingy said. “She always hosted out family gatherings, Christmas, any holiday, any Korean holiday, Thanksgiving. Celebrating our first Christmas without her last year, despite having almost every family member there. . .felt empty and cold.”
She expressed her grief that her mother missed her recent graduation from college. She says her mom overcame a lot in her life including extreme poverty and a bout with cancer which doctors told her would leave her six months to live.
“I’ve always thought that she was like a super hero and for her to go the way she did is so unbelievable unfair,” McGinty said.
Motgin also got emotional when he spoke and apologized to Chong’s family.
“It’s hard on me, it’s hard on my family, it’s hard on the victim’s family. I’m sorry,” Motgin said.
Through long pauses in his comments, Judge McConnell said there were a lot of unanswered questions surrounding the murder. He said they’re never going to know exactly why it happened but they do know who did it.
The judge talked at length about Motgin’s past criminal history. At the time of the murder he was on felony probation for assaulting an ex-girlfriend.
“You assault women. . .and you seem to like knives,” McConnell said.
McConnell says the fact that Motgin might have been drunk that night is no excuse.
“Alcohol lets you do things you want to do. It makes it easier to do things you want to do,” McConnell said. “That’s what alcohol does. It dis-inhibits you. It makes you more likely to do what you want to do. It’s why people get in trouble. It shows me that you’re such an angry person.”
Whether it was anger that Motgin felt that night and whether it can be resolved in the future is unknown but the sentence allows for the possibility of rehabilitation.
He was sentenced to 80 years with 35 suspended. That leaves him 45 years to serve with 10 years probation, which would put him up for parole when he’s about 50 years old. He also has to serve an additional 1 and a half years for violating his previous probation.
There is several probation conditions including one that prevents Motgin from ever taking a cab again.