It was a tragic murder case: the story of a rising prep school graduate who had everything to look forward to in his life. Instead Andrew Suh said he was tricked into a crime that ended one life and ruined his own.
The murder of nightclub owner Robert O’Dubaine rocked Chicago back in 1993. Suh was convicted in that murder, but now his attorney Alicia Hawley argues a change in Illinois law could set him free.
"This is a story about an immigrant family that had everything in front of them and it ended up being a tragedy," Hawley said.
Suh was conceived to replace his older brother who died in a tragic accident in South Korea. The family emigrated to Chicago in 1976 to start a new life, but at 11 years old, Suh’s father died of cancer and at 13, his mother was murdered—stabbed more than three dozen times at her dry cleaning business in Evanston.
"He had a very traumatic childhood and despite that, he ended up being a great kid," Hawley noted.
Hawley said despite losing both parents, Suh flourished at Loyola Academy in Wilmette where he was elected student body president and got a full scholarship out east to Providence College.
That all changed in the fall of 1993, when Suh said his older sister put a gun in his hand and hate in his heart at the age of 19.
"He's an exceptional person who did a terrible thing," Hawley remarked.
Hawley said Suh's sister was a key suspect in the murder of their mother, but convinced Andrew that her boyfriend was the killer and needed to die. Suh pulled the trigger in a Bucktown garage on Sept. 25,1993, killing O’Dubaine, who was 31 at the time of the slaying.
Suh was convicted of the murder and has served 26 years of an 80-year sentence.
He is not up for parole until 2032, but a new Illinois statute says if a person under 21 years commits a murder, they could be eligible for release after 20 years. Suh’s attorney plans to file a post-conviction petition to the court asking the court to apply the statute to the case and set him free.
"He got a sentence that is too long for the crime and the circumstances," said Hawley.
Courts records showed that O’Dubaine was shot twice in the head within close range, raising questions as to whether Suh should be paroled.
"I see their perspective. I understand that," said Hawley but added, "He’s remorseful, he wants to do good in the world. He has apologized to the family for whatever that is worth."
"I reached out to them and apologized wholeheartedly," said Suh who spoke with Dateline correspondent Natalie Morales in his first network television interview.
When asked why he pulled the trigger not once but twice, he told Morales, "I think Catherine told me make sure he's dead."
His sister Catherine Suh is serving life in prison for ordering her boyfriend’s killing, but no one has ever been charged in her mother’s murder in Evanston.
Retired Chicago Police Detective Bill Johnston who was assigned to the murder, said it clearly was a crime of passion.
"To stab somebody over twenty times, that’s rage," he said.
Evanston police investigated the murder and told reporters they did look at Catherine Suh as a possible suspect, but concluded that she had an alibi.
“Robert O’Dubaine was Catherine’s sole alibi. He covered for her and said that he was with her," Johnston said. "(But) according to one of his friends later, he wasn’t with her at the time of the murder."
Evanston police have recently assigned a new detective to look at the case.
Catherine Suh did not respond to Dateline’s request for an interview, nor did the family of Robert O’Dubaine.
As for Andrew Suh, he has a clean prison record and his attorney says he has the support of the Korean community who have attended his hearings.
Hawley said a post-conviction petition will be filed in September.
The interview with Suh and the detectives who tracked the clues to the murder airs on Dateline at 9 p.m. on Friday, July 16.