tv The House of Suh MSNBC December 19, 2015 11:00pm-12:01am PST
>> i was -- i was terrified that day. that was probably the longest day of my life. each moment, when i was in that garage, i rehashed everything. my mother, my father, my sister. ♪ >> i looked up and there was a mirror there. the mirror was broken, there was a glass shard on the bottom and i saw my reflection there. i'm dressed in black. i'm going to do something crazy right now, and i'm like, what am i doing here? this isn't you.
i wanted to run so bad. i wanted to have nothing to do with my life at that point. but i had to stay. ♪ >> i just lifted the gun up and i pulled the trigger, and it was over with. >> me? i don't know. for me to describe who i am, i don't know. i'm a product of my environment, because my choices led me here. my childhood was focused on the
family unit. nothing really mattered. to me, it was what i thought was right. i would wake up in the morning. after school i would take an hour drive and work at my parents, stocking the shelves until 8:00 at night, drive with my mother all the way home, eat dinner, do homework, go to sleep and start the cycle all over again. it was my duty, it was my obligation to family, because that is what a son does. >> translator: in korea, it is a much talked about topic. and it's regarded as very important.
>> translator: in andrew's case, he's the only son. he has to carry on the suh's family name. so he's very important. when a woman gets married, she becomes part of another family. so sometimes the daughter can be removed from her birth family lineage. >> catherine was more or less ostracized because she was the girl, and they focussed most of their attention to me. i think catherine always resented that, because she always chose to rebel. mom and dad wanted something done, i did it without question. but catherine would say, well, i'm going to question it. i'm going to ask why. catherine is my father reincarnate. that's why i think catherine and my father butted heads so often, because they did what they wanted to do. he made it abundantly clear that he did not like her. he said no, you're not my daughter. he beat her consistently. he's very old school korean. he said you know what?
this is how it's going to be done and this is my house. you will abide by my rules and catherine said no, i'm not. my father came home one day. he picked up the phone, there was a latino guy and he's like, where is your daughter? my father lost it. he's like, you come to america, you become a whore. he was slapping her around a little bit, and then catherine had a moment, i guess of bravery and she reached across my father and scratched his chest like this. and my father had his t-shirt ripped and he was bleeding across his chest. my father saw the blood and he just lost it. he grabbed her, he grabbed a jug of gasoline and doused both of them. he was trying to flick the lighter, he couldn't get it started. he said, let's die together. and my mom, she heard all the commotion and ran back and
grabbed them. she pulled the lighter out of his hand. he's like, what have we done? this is not my daughter. my sister is sobbing and crying and my father has blood on his chest. i guess that really sealed the deal between my father and sister about the complete separation where it -- you actually spilled my father's blood. you don't do that to your parents. so instead of saying i'm sorry, she said new york i'm right and challenged my father and my father did not like that. my father and my mother basically had given up on her. they said we went control her. once she gets 18, she'll be married off. she's not going to be part of the house. she's not a suh. >> translator: in a loving family, i wonder if catherine would have become what she is now.
but i think catherine still has conflicts inside of her. she hadn't resolved them yet. she needed to project them somehow. i thine projected it towards her younger brother. her younger brother, or maybe o'dubaine. >> catherine suh faces a life sentence for murdering her fiance, robert o'dubaine. >> the details in this case seem to just get worse. suh's brother andrew says suh hired him to gill her chicago boyfriend after claiming the boyfriend was beating her up. >> you're looking at a woman who killed her own boyfriend. she was convicted last september, but she got away. >> she was able to convince her brother to do pretty much anything she told him to do. >> catherine suh's fiance was shot to death outside his garage in chicago.
she set it up, calling to say she needed help with her car. >> robert o'dubaine was shot by her brother. jurors believe that catherine suh made him do it. ♪ >> deep down inside, i wonder how other people would respond, how other people would react. am i alone in this? am i wrong, completely unjustified? i just wanted to know what you would have done. because that's been my question for so long. what would you do? ♪ announcer: sunday's your last chance to save big
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amongst our family members, there was never any suspicion of cathy during the early weeks of my brother's murder. she was a victim just like my brother, meaning that she had lost somebody she loved, somebody she planned on spending her life with. >> andrew's written confession was at least a ten-page written statement that included many of the details of the crime that only andrew suh, only the killer would know. it was a critical piece of evidence in the state's case against him. >> when you kill someone spontaneously out of maybe a burst of rage or anger or
passion of some sort, there is, at least in this country, some sort of -- some sort of belief that makes the crime less heinous than if you had time to contemplate what you were doing and did it any way. and in our case, unfortunately, andrew flew home and sat in a cold, dark garage for over four hours waiting for robert o'dubaine so andrew could then kill him. >> my father got a phone call from the grand avenue detectives that they're starting to think cathy had some sort of involvement in my brother's murder. i had never been so surprised. i had no idea, i had no idea that -- cathy is involved in rob's death? it just -- it was baffling. it was a shock to us. to us as a family. >> translator: at the time the
media reported that catherine was kind of not so obedient. that's what they would say. but i'm not sure about that. i wasn't there, so i don't know. but the media would report that andrew was the son, when his father was sick, andrew was tend to him for a long time and was obedient and good. >> doctors cut him open and said the cancer has spread everywhere. it covered his entire stomach. it was only a matter of time. it was not good thing. catherine was nowhere to be found. catherine was at home doing her thing. my mom focused everything on my father, and i focused everything on him, too. and that's where the, like, close to a month vigil happened at the hospital. and i remember sleeping there over and over again, night after
night. but it was something i needed to do. like i said, you don't ask questions about stuff like that. you just do it, because it's your father. you don't ask, you just do it. my sister was nowhere to be seen that day. i believe she came towards the end of the day around 7:00 or 8:00 and my father passed away around 10:00 that night. she came in, she looked at him and she said okay. she left. in retrospect i look at it and i say, was she happy that he died? possibly. i think more with his death, the one factor that held my sister down was over with. she was free from her captor, i guess. after my father died, my mom was unemployed. she needed employment.
>> translator: in america, she has to take the pharmacy test again, right? but because she wasn't able to pass the pharmacy test, she ran the drycleaners. >> mom worked there six days a week. i was there with her and on sunday we went shopping for the house groceries and after that, we would go visit my father at the cemetery. it was a dark time for her. as my father passed away, she relied on me so much. >> translator: andrew's mom was under a lot of stress at the time. with cathy, that was probably when the -- the troubles were starting up, i think. >> she came home when she wanted to, barely graduated from high school. she was literally going out four, five nights a week and somehow she met robert along this process. >> cathy and rob met at the chicago health club.
rob was the manager, cathy was a trainer. and they started dating. they had a very normal relationship. he was charismatic, he was fun, everybody looked up to him. we just all wanted to be around him and we never felt like we had enough time. i always thought that later on, when things were settled down, when we had families or life wasn't traveling so fast, i really would relish when i could settle down and spend more time with rob when it wasn't such a rush, rush world. unfortunately, that didn't happen.
stop crying, stop trying. i'm trying to console her. for some odd reason she asked me this hypothetical situation. she said one day many years from now, you're on a mountainside and you had your wife, newborn son and me. the mountain is on fire and you can only take one person across. i'm 11 years old and i'm trying to rationalize this and my initial response was, take my life, i'll go and everybody is leave. she said no, you have to choose. so i said, mom, i rationalized it to myself. she led a long life. because we have no male heirs to the family name, i said mom, i'm sorry, i'm going to take my wife and son. she said no matter what, because you are a man, throughout the course of your life, you will have the opportunity to have as many women as you want. you can have as many kids as you want.
but throughout your entire life, you're only going to have one mother. >> police say that around mid morning they received a tip something was wrong at campus cleaners. >> entered the store and discovered the body of the victim in the back of the store. >> it was the first day of 8th grade. i saw police cars in front of the house. i walk in. my sister is sobbing and robert was holding her. i was like, what's going on? robert was -- he had just started dating my sister. he was still an outsider to the family and i saw him come in. he came up to me and said, i've got to talk to you. he said oh, something happened. your mom's been in an accident and she won't be coming back. and it didn't register upon me. it was -- it's anger. it was almost disbelief. i remember i pulled away from him. i said, let go of me and i just ran outside.
i couldn't comprehend what had just happened. to see her go like that without saying goodbye. >> police say elizabeth suh had been repeatedly stabbed. detectives are collecting and bagging clues. police suspect robbery as a motive. elizabeth suh's wallet is missing. during the rush hours tonight and tomorrow morning, police will question passer byes and ask them if they heard or saw anything that could help them solve the murder. >> i went into shock, numbness. and as the days progressed, i went into anger. after the investigation started with my mom's death, i said why haven't we done anything about this? robert said, well, the cops are idiots. they'll never find out who did this. you have to move on. my sister chimed in and said, that's true. they're not going to figure this out.
i'm 13 years old. my father abandoned me. my mother left me. i hated my life. i hated god. i hated my sister. my opinions no longer mattered in how the house was run, because catherine was in charge now. catherine was my guardian. there was one drawn out physical fight i had with my sister where it just escalated into an explosion. i said, you're nobody to me. i told her that. i'm still here, i'm the head of the household. she said no, you're not. this is my house. you're just a kid. i remember grabbing her and holding her and she bit into my ribs and i let her go and say what's wrong with you? i wanted to hit her and could. first and foremost, she's a woman. i punched my hand through the glass woman and my hand started bleeding.
she said get out of my house and i remember running away that night. somehow i made it to peterson park. i remember it was like snowflakes falling down. i'm like, what do you do? either accept her as my guardian or go to foster care. that was my other choice. i came home and i walked in or she opened the door and we had a talk. she's like -- she had calmed down, too. she's like, i love you. you're all i have left, too. i said what are we going to do? at that time, she told me, be a kid. it was a mixture of two things. it was a level of apprehension to let go of what i knew to be what my parents wanted to do. but it was also cathartic, because i let everything out. i didn't have to worry about where the next rent payment was going on or who was going to cook dinner. i didn't have to worry about taking care of the house.
i could go to school, have some fun with friends. i could actually live a life as a child again. for moments like that, i really loved my sister. i guess it was almost a transference. because that one time it was always my father, i focused on my father making him happy. after he passed away, i did everything to make my mother happy. after her passing, there was a void there and catherine was there to fill it.
my mother was murdered. that night, robert came in and stayed with catherine and he never left. everything in my mother's room was evacuated. my mother's body wasn't even cold yet before they went through everything and moved it out. in the beginning, i was angry with him for taking control of things like that. but as time passed, what i saw him doing for my sister, supporting her when she needed it most, and he was there for us. he was there for my sister after my mom's death. >> my warmest memory of andrew
was early on when he was 14, 15 years old, coming over for christmas morning and opening up presents with us. it was definitely not your normal dynamics of a family that you would see. but they were doing pretty well with that. >> ooze the years went on, he was family. because he was part of the inner circle. we shared meals together. he taught me how to drive a stick shift he was my male role model. >> rob went through phases in his life. rob would re-create himself during his early years, all the way through when he met cathy. >> catherine had a very specific idea of what robert should be or who he should be. and she cleaned him up. she bought him thousand dollar suits. >> he wanted the riches that other people had, but he didn't really know how to -- he didn't have a college degree. >> put him in a mercedes.
to make him fit the part that she wanted him to be. >> he was a hard worker, but with the death of cathy's mother, some money started coming in through her mother's estate. they bought what came the club metropolis. >> he said i'm going to be a new person and catherine reinvented him and he took it and ran with me. same with me. she molded me into who i had become. my identity is the one catherine developed for me. i didn't want to go to loyola. she said you will go to loyola academy, you will do football. you become popular, you go to college, graduate, get a good job. this is the american dream. >> you know, at loyola, there weren't that many koreans. in my class, there were five of us. and just to give you an example,
out of those five, i think four of us were in the math club. and andy was playing football. he was like them, basically. he looked like me. i mean, he didn't look exactly like me, but he was korean, came from an immigrant family. yet he was a leader in this school that i felt like i was such an outsider in. he was really a star at that high school. andy was a very striking person. he was the type of person that you would remember if you met him back then. and something so tragic happened. i think people with a lot of painful things that are going on in their lives sometimes really
come up with a good front. and i think he channeled a lot of his energy, a lot of his pain into becoming that person and i think he was very good at it. >> no. you don't talk about stuff like that. and i had a facade i had to maintain at school. i guess i was a lonely popular kid. everybody thought i had the perfect life. but i had nobody to talk to. how do you bring up a topic with somebody you know, barely know. oh, yeah, by the way, my mom was murdered and i have issues? you don't talk about stuff like that. you harbor it inside. you drink a beer, you shut up and let the time pass. that's how you deal with it. or that's how i was taught to deal with things. >> translator: the older sister was, we can say, different.
she played the roles of both the mother and father. >> there weren't parents in the household. so rob being a little more mature than cathy, he became a little more of a father figure. rob and cathy's relationship changed a bit when they started getting into all these different business ventures. at one point, they were engaged but you had a sense that it was more of a business relationship. they both wanted to be successful. they both strived to get the most out of life. and their house showed that. >> catherine was pouring money hand over fist. she imported cabinets from europe. she bought all high-end fixtures. everything new. >> but it lacked the warmth, the family feeling that the mother's house had. so you can almost feel the change in their relationship. my brother rob was my best man
at my wedding. cathy wasn't there at my wedding, and she would have been. so i knew something was wrong. i knew there was some fight that they had. my brother seemed affected by it. but he put up a good front, he put up a good show and gave me a toast. he was my best man. watched everybody dance, we got some good times in. but i had no idea that july 16th was the last time i was see my brother alive. >> the story began with the relationship between catherine suh and her boyfriend, robert o'dubaine. that relationship broke down. there was an argument that the two had, and there was a business relationship between them that gradually deteriorated over time. she thought that the victim was taking money from the business and using that money to gamble.
catherine enlisted the aid of her brother, andrew suh, who was a student at providence college in rhode island, to fly in to chicago in order to commit this murder. catherine later on that evening made a phone call to robert o'dubaine and told robert o'dubaine that her car had broken down in lincoln park and she needed him to come and pick her up. this was all a fabrication, a ruse to get him to come into the garage. he did so. when he walked into the garage, andrew suh shot robert o'dubaine two times. once in the back of the neck, and then a second time in his face to make sure that he was dead. >> later on, we find out that her possible motive that she had was to cash in my brother's $250,000 life insurance policy. all of a sudden it wasn't rob the victim in the garage, it was a planned murder. when cathy was charged with the
murder of my brother, she was out on bond but she had to go to all the hearings they had. i'm sitting in the courtroom and from behind in the aisle i feel this hand on me and i look around and it's cathy suh and she said, kevin, you know i couldn't do this. you know i'm innocent. i looked back at her and the only thing i can think of to say is, what about andrew? your brother confessed to the crime already. it was -- to me it was a done subject. so after the hearings took place, it was time for the trial. cathy's lawyers were stirring around and they looked upset. the problem was they didn't know where cathy was. and the trial has to go on, no matter what.
a few of the jury members actually came up to us and i wanted to ask, what was it in your mind made her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt? because a lot of the evidence was circumstantial against cathy. so the jury members said, well, the one thing we had going for us is we looked out and saw that chair was empty. and we don't believe an innocent person would flee, that would not want to represent themselves in a trial. >> she's been on the run since last fall. perhaps living on an island paradise thousands of miles from a murder conviction here in chicago. >> the crime suh fled was the murder of fiance robert o'dubaine. she was convicted. >> catherine suh, alias tiffany. >> she thought if she left, took off, changed her name that that would be the way she would survive. >> catherine suh fled to hawaii, thinking it was a place where she would blend in.
and she did, spending more than six months in honolulu as a fugitive. today, she turned herself in. >> i'm turning myself in, because i'm not guilty. >> it was a petite catherine suh who was arrested in honolulu last friday. these how catherine suh boarded a plane, extradited to chicago where she faces a life sentence for murdering her former fiance robert o'dubaine.
sophomore year in college, i pulled into the garage, and i walked outside and i saw robert out there drinks. he said, you don't know anything about my life. i've made all these mistakes. maybe hell won't be as bad when i get there. i said okay, relax. you're drunk, go inside and he's like, it's your sister's fault. after everything i've done for her, she goes out and she's cheating on me. your sister is a [ bleep ], she's a whore. she knows all my secrets and i know all of her secrets. i said, you're part of the family, relax. and he went into the tirade about you don't know anything about family. you and i have nothing more than a meal ticket to her. i said, you know what? screw you, and i left. about a week later, i get a call. >> i ripped the door open and i run in.
everything was dark and i see catherine pop her head out. i said where is this [ bleep ] guy. out of the corner of my eye, i see robert, there's a shadow coming up. i started going towards him and i see robert holding his gun. he had a .44 magnum. he's like this is my house. you think you're tough, i'll show you tough. i'm like, what's wrong with this guy? and my sister cam flying down the stairwell. she jumps in between us and said leave it alone, leave it alone. i said, you're nobody. all this that you think is yours belongs to me. this is my house. i made a decision, i didn't care. it was over with. >> i got off the airplane. i landed in chicago, and catherine picked me up. we pulled into the house at hermitage. everything was dark.
it was pouring rain that day. she shoved a brown paper bag into my hand and left me. inside the bag was a gun. it was like a couple of hours. i was constantly going through all these memories of catherine. the last memory i had was catherine telling me this story about my mom. we were at a restaurant, a japanese restaurant. i was leaving for college in a matter of weeks, and at that point, she looked at me and she's quiet and there you see almost a calm in her face where she's -- she wasn't herself. she's like, i have to tell you something. >> here's an interesting fact. all of andrew's parent's money, and it was a significant amount of money back then, goes to the son. catherine really didn't get anything. but what she got was control of andrew. >> before mom died, after robert got fired, we had a long conversation about money. she said, robert and i, i was
talking to robert, half heartedly about how everything will be fine once my mom passed away. shortly thereafter, my mother came up dead. she said, i didn't ask him to, but he did it. >> they knew andrew would inherit everything. that catherine would become the administrator of his trust, and then in fact it proved true. she could then manipulate the money and spend it as if it was her own, which is what she did. >> i got up and i ran out. i'm sitting on a concrete barrier in the middle of the restaurant parking lot. at that point, i was a little kid again. i was 13 years old, sitting there, finding out my mom got murdered for the first time. it was just an overwhelming sensation, where i hated my sister, i hated robert, i hated everybody again. all this built-up anger and frustration came pouring over again. >> she worked and worked and worked on how can you let this
man walk the streets knowing he murdered our mother? her mother was brutally murdered. someone sat on her chest and stabbed her repeatedly with a knife. this is not somebody walked in and shot her. this is brutal and a heinous murder. imagine your sister telling you she figured out who had done this most horrible thing to your mother and andrew said let's just call the police. catherine said oh, no, if we call the police -- >> they'll call me an accomplice and we'll both go to jail. catherine was robert's alibi and robert was my sister's alibi. if he goes, i go, her words. she says, you have to get rid of him. you have to do it for mom. >> cathy's mother was stabbed 37 times in the face and neck. that's not a crime for $100 in the cash register.
that's a crime of passion. andrew has been with her through all of this. you're going to believe your sister when she starts talking about this stuff. we need to protect our family. >> and then there's a plethora of questions. how much of involvement does she have in this crime? >> could cathy suh do this? yes, i think she could have done this. >> on my father's deathbed, i promised i wouldn't let nothing happen to my mother. i even promised my mother, i'll never let anything wrong happen. i'll always be there for you. for me to fail was unacceptable. i couldn't accept that. it was my duty as a son to right this wrong. i didn't have anybody to confide in. who do you tell this to? i found out who killed my mother, what do i do next?
there's nobody i can turn to. it was my sister and that was it. >> it was as if cathy was the mafia. nobody walks away from me. nobody leaves me. you can't leave me. >> but she couldn't just break up with him if he was blackmailing her or saying i'll tell what you did. when somebody knows something like that, you're bound to them for as long as they're alive. >> a week after my mother was murdered, i went to the back of the cleaners, with robert o'dubaine, and i cleaned up my brother's congealed puddle of blood on the tile floor. for me, that was a moment in my life that i really don't remember but that was a part of my life that i remember the most of that night.
i cleaned it up, and to think of robert o'dubaine standing behind me, telling me this is how you have to do that. what kind of monster does that? what sick, twisted man says this is what i did. here, go clean it up? and up until that point, the identity of the man responsible for my mother's murder, he was always a blank face, my failures, what did i do wrong? now i saw robert's face there. i wanted to leave, but my sister's voice held me there. my vision of my mother laying in a pool of her own blood kept me there. my responsibility as a son to my father kept me there. a moment later, the light flicked on in the backyard. i remember walking in, he walked in, i just lifted the gun up and
i just wanted to know what you would have done. because that's been my question for so long. what would you do? >> i don't think andrew deserves the death penalty. i think that the court handed down a just verdict, a just sentence, and i think he's paying for his crime right now. >> it's in the bible, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life. look at hamlet, his father was murdered by his uncle. he said, i have to contain vengeance for that.
however, in our actual civilized society, we are considered vigilantes and we then become the cold blooded killer. we try to destroy the monster and in turn we become that monster. >> andrew was certainly -- he was a young adult, incapable of making his own decisions. and his participation in this murder, although he was certainly urged to do so by his sister, again, he was a willing participant and went along with this. >> i'm not saying i would have done what andrew did or that anybody would. but somehow a 19-year-old man with an incredible sense of loyalty to his family was convinced that the only way to avenge his mother's death and to protect his sister, the only living relative he had, was to kill this man.
>> cathy suh is in prison, serving a sentence for a crime they were able to prove she committed. this crime has the drycleaner also be an unsolved case. >> i believe with all my heart and sincerity that he was responsible for this. he was the man for slashing my mother 33 times. he shattered my life. he was the man responsible for putting me in this place. but in the same breath i say who am i to decide that? on certain days i wake up and say oh, my god, what have you done? what have you done? you took another person's life. and i will always be a murderer. >> andrew was the last person to see my brother alive. it's hard to get over. but in another sense, i remember
that 14-year-old boy that i knew and how he was manipulated by his sister. he has to go on and live his life knowing that his only family member left is the one that sent him there. >> i had a friend contact her, passed a message to her. i said, you know, i'm your brother, i'm always here with you. we can do this together. and the message came back to me and says, don't ever contact me again. i don't know who you are. i don't have a brother. and just leave me alone. i'm always conflicted, because she has my dna. we are brother and sister. it's never going to change. and despite whatever she's done in my life, there's always the
good with the bad. when i was hurting, she was a woman i looked to as my mother. i have no choice but to love her, because she is my family. that's all i have left in this world. as a 13-year-old boy and a 19-year-old man, yes, everything made so much sense. oh, i screwed this up. he deserved it. now as an older man, i say, was i right in that decision? was i wrong?