Even with quality television via cable and streaming, I’m too busy procrastinating updating my screenplays. Unfortunately I’m a far better procrastinator than I am a writer. However I am addicted to “Dateline,” the true crime TV show on NBC which often features correspondent Keith Morrison. I’ll try to explain this embarrassing habit.
First, I only watch Dateline when I work out in the gym. So while I can almost feel my I.Q. dwindling, at least I’m burning off calories. I’m also comforted that three of my comedic heroes, Bill Hader, Larry David, and Judd Apatow, are admitted Dateline addicts.
As it happens, Andrew Suh was featured on Dateline eight years ago. His tragic life was so emotionally moving I reached out to him and we’ve been friends every since.
Andrew was born in S. Korea, the son of a military officer and a pharmacist mother. Prior to Andrew the couple’s son died in an horrible accident. Following Korean culture, his father insisted his wife, who was 40, bare him a son or he would divorce her. (How’s that for harsh?) And yet the mother took the latest fertility drugs and gave birth to Andrew. Seemingly this infant instinctively knew his life’s mission pleasing his parents.
Due to political unrest in S. Korea the family moved to the U.S. and settled in Chicago. As early as grade school Andrew demonstrated remarkable intelligence. On business trips he would accompany his father who would beam proudly when Andrew could quote to the customer the dollar cost of an interest rate loan.
Sadly, when Andrew was 11, his father developed terminal cancer. After school Andrew constantly sat by his ailing father’s side in the hospital throughout the night. This absolute devotion was written up in the Korea Times, “The Golden child.”
Two years after his father’s passing, more tragedy. Andrew’s mother was brutally killed after being robbed at her dry cleaning store and stabbed 38 times. I believe the killer was Andrew’s sister, Catherine, embittered that in strict Korean culture girls are often slighted because they will grow up, marry and have a family of her own.
Years before, when her father suspected Catherine was no longer a virgin, he poured gasoline over them both, exclaiming, “We will die together!” In horror, Andrew, age 10, witnessed his mother miraculously wrestling the lighter from her husband.
At 13, Andrew was now an orphan with his sister as his legal guardian. Her boyfriend, Robert O’Dubaine, moved in immediately and the two bought an upscale disco stealing from the $800k inheritance Andrew didn’t even know he had. At his prestigious Catholic high school, Loyola Academy, Andrew got all A’s, was on the football team, was class president and ultimately Student Body President. He received a Martin Luther scholarship to Providence College in Rhode Island and his future was sky’s the limit.
However, on Spring vacation in his sophomore year, Andrew came home and listened to Catherine’s fake discovery of who murdered their mother… Robert O’Dubaine! Andrew insisted they go to the police immediately but Catherine convinced him that since she has been his alibi, they would put her in jail and then Andrew would have no family at all. She cited old world Korean belief that the only way to rid a family of shame was an eye for an eye. Diabolically, she tried to persuade Andrew to murder Robert which meant all they had stolen would be 100% hers and put Andrew in prison so all that was left would also be hers.
Andrew adamantly refused and returned to Providence. But Catherine phoned him more than 60 times and stressed he owed it to his late parents Finally a very confused Andrew reluctantly agreed. Using a gun and a plan supplied by Catherine, Andrew killed Robert and was given a 100 year sentence. Catherine disappeared and, in absentia, was given a life sentence without parole.
After being featured on “America’s Most Wanted” Catherine finally surrendered. Andrew wrote her saying now they were all each other had but she wrote back “I have no brother.” (Exceedingly violent, for decades Catherine has been denied visitors.)
Andrew has been a model prisoner helping disabled inmates and volunteering in hospice care for dying inmates. He also passed the Illinois Optician Exam, got his license and has worked in a prison glasses manufacturing factory. Living with forever remorse, how Andrew has remained optimistic and his sense of humor is mind boggling. But good news may be around the corner. (My fingers are crossed, which would explain any typos.)
Cook County prosecutors are not objecting to Andrew’s prison term being commuted to time served. Even Robert O’Dubaine’s younger brother and Andrew’s retired trial judge agree that Andrew was brainwashed by his maniacally manipulative sister.
I pray Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, in whose hands Andrew’s freedom rests, sees his undeniable goodness and sets him free.
Google “Andrew Suh: My Korean Prison Father” an award-winning, non-fiction short story written by Andrew. For guaranteed laughs, Google: “Bill Hader Meets Keith Morrison.” Jack is at: email@example.com.