1998: Murder suspect fled; 2010: Murder trial begins

January 25, 2010 6:21:10 PM PST
David Nam, the teenage son of immigrant parents, grew up in relative affluence in suburban Philadelphia, where his father helped run a textile business.

But by 19, he allegedly orchestrated the home-invasion robbery of a retired warehouse worker who lived alone in North Philadelphia and was known to stay up late in the summer with the front door open for air.

Anthony Schroeder no doubt looked like an easy target. However, after several prior robbery attempts, the 75-year-old World War II veteran was watching TV that night in 1996 with a firearm on his lap. When he heard a commotion on his porch, he walked to the door with the gun, prosecutors said.

"Nam panics, shoots him through the screen door in the chest," Assistant District Attorney Mark Gilson said on the eve of Nam's trial for the 1996 slaying, which opened Monday with jury selection.

"Anthony Schroeder had the right to go to the door with a gun. David Nam did not have the right to come to the porch with a rifle, masked up, ready to rob him," Gilson said.

Nam, now 32, was set to go on trial for the slaying in March 1998, but cut off his electronic monitor days before and fled to South Korea, his parents' homeland. The flight cost his father the $100,000 surety he had posted on the $1 million bail, and he is still technically on the hook for the remaining $900,000.

The parents also returned to their homeland, where authorities believe they remained in secret contact with their son, who morphed from an alleged teen thug in the United States to a married English teacher and father in South Korea.

Nam had held dual citizenship, but dropped his U.S. allegiance to avoid possible extradition early on, Gilson said. After a 1999 extradition treaty with South Korea that allowed for his return to face trial and years following his trail, FBI agents closed in on him in Gyeonggi Province and confirmed his identity with help from his tattoos and fingerprints lifted from a beer bottle in his trash. He returned to U.S. soil in handcuffs in 2008.

Nam's trial in Philadelphia is expected to last at least a week. Several jurors were chosen Monday to hear the case, and opening statements were expected by Tuesday.

Three co-defendants pleaded guilty to third-degree murder early on and identified Nam as the shooter. They are expected to testify against him.

Nam's court-appointed defense lawyer did not immediately return a message, but Gilson expects Nam to plead self defense if he testifies.

"If anyone has self-defense here, it was Anthony Schroeder," Gilson said.