Search for evidence underway at Surprise landfill in death of ASU professor

An investigation into the murder of a man who reportedly worked at Arizona State University has led Maricopa County Sheriff's Office investigators to a landfill in the Valley.

In a brief statement released Wednesday afternoon, officials with MCSO say their homicide detectives are working on an investigation that began in late March. The investigation has led investigators to the Northwest Regional Landfill, which is located in Surprise.

Investigators say it is believed the landfill holds evidence in connection with the murder. Investigators believe the victim is a person named Junseok Chae, who went missing earlier in the year.

Officials with MCSO say they took over the investigation on March 29. An investigation is ongoing, and Chae's body has not been recovered, as of Wednesday night.

Reports: Victim was a professor at ASU

According to information gathered by FOX 10's Justin Lum, Chae is a professor at Arizona State University. A profile on the university's website shows Chae joined ASU in 2005, and listed his positions as a professor with the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, as well as a professor with the Center of Technology, Data and Society.

ASU officials have declined to comment on the investigation.

Students react

FOX 10 attempted to reach one of Chae's family members Wednesday night, but the family has declined to comment. 

Meanwhile, one of Chae's students, who did not want to be identified, said Chae always engaged his class.

"He was probably one of my -- personally, my favorite professors because the way that he presented the information to us, and just the way that he was able to convey complex engineering topics," said the student.

Chae's student remembers his professor being on time for Zoom lectures before he vanished. 

"Class started at 9 o’clock, and he was there right at 9 o’clock, and so there was probably about 60 of us in this Zoom waiting room and he never showed up," said the student, who hopes more answers will come soon.

“I mean me, personally, I would like to know what happened. It’s a little mind-blowing that an ASU engineering professor would show up in a landfill," said the student.

Neighbor reacts

Char lived in a quiet neighborhood in Scottsdale. One neighbor told FOX 10, off-camera, that she texted Chae's wife a couple of weeks ago to check in.

The neighbor said Chae's wife replied, saying her husband died accidentally, and that she moved back to South Korea.

Chae reportedly had two children.

Prior investigation at landfills

This is not the first time a criminal investigation has led investigators to a landfill site in the Valley.

In late 2017, the search for a missing woman named Christine Mustafa led investigators to the SR 85 Landfill, located in Buckeye, where it is believed her remains were taken to.

In October 2017, FOX 10 reported on the search effort at the landfill, detailing efforts by law enforcement to find the woman.

"We're looking to be able to pick out anything, from bones to clothing to possible body parts," said Officer Zach Clark with Phoenix Police, who volunteered for the job.

Mustafa's body, however, was never found.

In 2019, a man named Robert Interval was found guilty for his role in Mustafa's death. He was sentenced in June that same year to a 25-year prison sentence.