Suspect found dead, another arrested in murder of Puyallup store owner

PUYALLUP, Wash. -- One teenage suspect was found dead and another arrested in connection with the murder of a beloved Puyallup convenience store owner.

The 79-year-old matriarch was shot and killed just after 5 p.m. Saturday when two men robbed Soon Ja Nam at the Handy Corner Store on 112th St. E. in Puyallup.

Witnesses told investigators two men entered the store, pulled out handguns and threatened Nam, but even after she gave them the money one of them followed her toward the store office and shot her in the back.

Two teenage suspects

Detectives with the Pierce County Sheriff's Department said Wednesday that the body of a 16-year-old suspect washed ashore Monday morning at Chinook Landing Marina in northeast Tacoma.

Investigators said the teen died of a single gunshot wound and had been in the water for several hours.

Late Tuesday and early Wednesday, detectives tracked down the second suspect, also age 16, in a parking lot in northeast Tacoma. Officers arrested the suspect and booked him into the Pierce County Jail.

Authorities said the suspect was transferred to Remann Hall Pierce County Juvenile Detention Center
where he is being held without bail.

Detectives said the investigation is ongoing and they are continuing interviews and serving search warrants.

Searching for a better life

Soon Ja Nam escaped from North Korea more than 50 years ago in search of a better life.

Her son, Tohyon Nam, told Q13 that she and her husband made it to South Korea, where Soon Ja Nam became a college professor. Still, she wanted more for her family.

"Through that hardship of occupation, hardship of war, blowing up bombs here, bombs there, she survived all that," Tohyon Nam said. "She brought us here."

Here in Puyallup, over the decades the Nam family made the Handy Corner Store a neighborhood hub, riding on the smiles and kindness of Soon Ja Nam.

"Everyone around here loved her," customer Nancy Prime said. "It's a small area. We all knew her. We all loved her."