A Tempe lawyer and part-time Maricopa County Superior Court judge is under investigation in a possible drunken driving and vehicular homicide death of an 18-year-old Dobson High School choir student, police said Thursday.
Preliminary tests indicate Keith Alan Moore, 51, had a blood-alcohol level more than double the state's legal limit for intoxication when he struck Yong Kim, a senior at the Mesa school, with his 2001 Mercedes on Wednesday night, detective Tim Gaffney said. Moore is a judge pro tem in the county's family court.
"Initially he told officers he had not been drinking, but later he changed his story that he hadn't had a thing to drink since noon," Gaffney said.
Kim was riding his bicycle at 7:15 p.m. across Guadalupe Road at Rogers Street when Moore's car struck him. The teen was taken to Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
Kim's mother, Haeok Kim, 44, said her son normally attends church Wednesday nights, but stayed at Dobson High to prepare for Thursday night's choral and dance program at the school. He was on his way home when he was killed.
Moore was driving west on Guadalupe and had a green light when the car struck Kim, who was crossing the intersection in the crosswalk but against a "Don't Walk" sign, police said. Three partially filled bottles of vodka were found in Moore's car, each with cracked seals indicating they had been opened, Gaffney said.
Moore was apparently driving his 10-year-old son home from a baseball game at the time of the crash, Gaffney said.
Although blood tests need to be conducted, Moore's preliminary breath test at the scene indicated a blood-alcohol level of .20 percent, comparable to extreme DUI. Arizona's legal limit is .08 percent. Other offenses Moore might face include aggravated DUI — which makes drunken driving a felony if a child under 15 years old is in the vehicle, Gaffney said.
Moore previously has been convicted of DUI, according to court records.
Moore was questioned at Mesa police headquarters but later released to family members pending the outcome of the investigation. He was allowed to leave because he did not pose a flight risk, Gaffney said.
"Unless the individual is a flight risk we will continue our investigation and submit the most complete case to the county attorney's office," Gaffney said. "He has a home and a job, and we saw no signs that he would be fleeing."
The Kims moved to the United States about two years ago from South Korea to provide Yong and his brother, Peter, 14, better educational opportunities, Haeok Kim said. Her husband, Hyeong Su Kim, 45, is the pastor at Scottsdale Light House Church.
Yong Kim was recently accepted at Arizona State University and hoped to one day be a music or TV producer, Peter Kim said. A lover of classical and contemporary Christian music, Yong Kim wanted to produce Christian-based programs.
Ninety percent of what he earned at a Superstition Springs Center clothing store went to his college fund and the remaining portion went to his church, Peter Kim said. He also spent his Friday evenings teaching Korean to seventh- and eighth-graders at Tempe Korean School.
"He was so nice," Haeok Kim said. "He had a lot of talent. He always played the piano and guitar and he sang very well. I can't believe that he has died. I believe he must go to heaven to be with God, but I really miss him."
There are several more witnesses to interview, blood samples need to be tested, and traffic detectives need more time to analyze Moore's speed — and whether he tried to stop, Gaffney said.
Moore's profession or standing in the community were not factors in the decision not to book him, Gaffney said.
"There was absolutely no special treatment given," Gaffney said.
The Maricopa County Attorney's Office is sure to take into consideration Yong Kim's role in the tragedy, he added.
Damian Aros, a spokesman for Maricopa County Superior Court, said Moore started as a voluntary judge pro tem in July 2000, but since had only logged only 18 hours on the bench.
Moore, a graduate of Arizona State University's College of Law, had no disciplinary actions in his file with the State Bar of Arizona, said Matt Silverman, a spokesman for the agency. He was admitted to the bar association in 1990. Moore could not be reached for comment.
The crash occurred the same day Dobson students watched a mock DUI fatality that was staged by Mesa police at the school.
Yong Kim's classmates described the mood on campus Thursday as somber. Principal Steve Green announced Yong Kim's death after first period.
Sophomores Katrina Hofmann and Sara Ahlas, both 16, said they met Yong Kim through mutual friends and orchestra. They said he "was just a really happy person."
The girls were among those students who attended the assembly on drinking and driving Wednesday morning.
"It's really ironic," Hofmann said. "It gives a lot more impact to the assembly. It wasn't just a mock thing anymore."
Green said counselors were available to students in each of Yong Kim's classes on Thursday.
Amy Jones, a Dobson senior and member of the school's dance club, said club members intend to set up a memorial at the crash site during their lunch period today.