Moon's son dies in fall from hotel

The Moonies' founder loses his 21-year-old son in what family members and friends say wasn't a suicide

The Las Vegas Review-Journal, Nov 4, 1999
By Joe Schoenmann

Coroner's Report
Record of Death Narrative

The son of controversial religious leader the Rev. Sun Myung Moon fell to his death from a Reno hotel room window, and the young man's family doesn't believe it was suicide.

Las Vegas resident Young Jin Moon, 21, son of the founder of the Unification Church, had every reason to live, said the Rev. Phillip Schanker, a vice president with Moon's Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.

He was about to enroll in college, was two years married and, on the night of his death, appeared to be making plans that "showed he had direction."

"It doesn't fit the character of the young man that I knew," said Schanker from his home in Washington, D.C. "He was not despondent or despairing. He was a bright kid. He was having a rocky time getting along with his wife, which was fairly normal. I and many others are not convinced."

Although the Washoe County coroner's office ruled the Oct. 28 death a suicide, the Reno Police Department is conducting a full investigation, said Deputy Chief Jim Weston.

"We don't have much at this point," Weston admitted Wednesday. Toxicology tests will be conducted, he also said, to see if Moon was under the influence of any drugs at the time of death.

"There's no sign of foul play," Weston said, adding that no note was found. "And there doesn't seem to be anything in his background, or some motivating factor for suicide."

Moon's body was found around 9 a.m., lying on an overhang of Harrah's in downtown Reno. Weston said Moon had checked into a 17th floor room of the hotel the day before. Police think Moon fell from the window around 9:30 the night before.

Moon was buried with a private service Saturday in Sierra Memorial Gardens in Reno. Schanker said a much larger public ceremony is being planned by the Rev. Moon.

Young Jin Moon, Schanker said, did not play a key role in the church.

"He was not a public figure, not someone who everybody knew really well," said Schanker. "He didn't stand on stage like his brothers or give speeches. In an internal sense, there was a respect and love and support for all the children in the family. But I wouldn't say he was an active leader."

Even so, his Sept. 6, 1997, wedding to Hwa Jung Yoo, then 20, in New York City drew congratulations from Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, the Rev. Jerry Falwell, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and Washington Mayor Marion Barry. According to the Unification News, an organization newsletter, the younger Moon's wedding "set the stage for the blessing of 3.6 million couples worldwide" that occurred in November 1997.

The Rev. Moon founded the church in Korea in 1954 with the belief that Jesus Christ was supposed to marry but was prevented from doing so by his death. The church's Divine Principle holds that Moon was sent from the East to be the Messiah and correct Jesus' mistakes.

Schanker said the church, whose members are sometimes called "Moonies," numbers more than 45,000 in the United States and several hundred thousand worldwide.

Announcing that the age of traditional religion was at an end, the Rev. Moon officially dissolved the Unification Church in 1996 to focus on the offshoot Family Federation. At the same time, he holds the reins of a robust business empire that reportedly controls more than $300 million in various enterprises in Washington, D.C., including the Washington Times newspaper.

Young Jin Moon, Moon's sixth son, was born in 1978, 24 years after his father founded the church and seven years after he moved to the United States.

Schanker said the young man had wanted to study hotel management in Nevada and was exploring which campus he would attend. He already had completed two years of study in East Asian civilizations at Columbia University. And while his parents wanted him to attend Cornell University, Schanker said, he "felt Las Vegas was the place because of the preponderance of hotels."

Schanker said the Rev. Moon lost two other sons, one in a 1984 car accident and the other in a train accident "back in the early days of the movement."

Schanker said the 79-year-old Moon has "maintained incredible strength" in light of this latest tragedy.

"I was with him last Friday and Saturday," he said. "We felt something was up, but it's kind of his character not to show weakness or shed tears in a public way."

Schanker said several people were meeting Wednesday night "to pray together and reflect and try to go through it and understand."


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