Campus police put 24-year unsolved murder to rest

Grace Asuncion_Mug

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UCPD announced Tuesday that it has identified the killer in the unsolved 1992 homicide of Grace Asuncion, a campus student who was stabbed to death in Eshleman Hall.

UCPD identified John Iwed, an Alameda County resident who died of a drug overdose less than a year after Asuncion’s death, as the killer. Iwed was a suspect early in the case, but UCPD did not have enough corroborating evidence at the time to charge him.

The case remained open for 24 years as detectives continued to review the case on a rotating basis. UCPD spokesperson Sgt. Sabrina Reich said they were able to get additional statements from key witnesses over the past three months and use new DNA testing procedures to confirm that Iwed was the killer.

“The re-interviewing of key witnesses broke the case for us,” Reich said. “Witnesses are more willing to speak freely as the years pass on.”

In a statement released Tuesday, UCPD said the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office reviewed the new information and would have charged Iwed with Asuncion’s death if he were still alive.

Asuncion, who was a junior on the pre-med track and leader of the Pilipino American Alliance, or PAA, was found dead — stabbed multiple times in the neck — in the fifth-floor office of the PAA in the previous Eshleman Hall by a custodian Feb. 7, 1992.

The safety of Eshleman Hall, which was beset by frequent theft, vandalism and arson, was called into question following Asuncion’s death. The building was demolished and rebuilt in 2013 as a part of the Lower Sproul Plaza renovation project and now has key card access in addition to video surveillance.

Asuncion’s family, who argued that campus officials had done little to intervene based on a history of assaults and burglaries by non-students at Eshleman Hall, agreed to settle with campus for $750,000 following Asuncion’s death.

“This was a case that was always on our minds because cases of this violent nature are not common,” Reich said. “It’s important to know that we brought some sort of resolution and closure to some of the victim’s family and community (members) who may and continue to be affected.”

Contact Winston Cho at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @winstonscho.