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Family hopes for answers in 23-year-old cold case

Twenty-three years ago, a 17-year-old St. Paul girl disappeared.  Hang Lee told her family she was going to a job interview and was never seen again.

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Twenty-three years ago, a 17-year-old St. Paul girl disappeared. Hang Lee told her family she was going to a job interview and was never seen again.

Now, her family is hoping to finally get some answers. It all comes after the man authorities believe was the last person to see her alive is charged yet again with another serious, but unrelated crime.

Even though the new, disturbing charge is unrelated -- the court papers directly address the disappearance of Hang Lee.

And sources close to the investigation tell KARE they're hoping they might have leverage to lead them to the girl.

“It's not right that she's not found,” said Eileen Lee, Hang’s former boss at Wong’s Café on Rice Street in St. Paul.

Eileen talked to Hang that day in 1993 she disappeared.

“She called me and said, 'I'm not coming in, I'm going to a job interview.' And I said 'That's OK,” Eileen Lee said.

When Hang never came home, police assumed she ran away. Until five months later, when they learned the man supposedly interviewing her for a job, Mark Steven Wallace, was a twice-convicted sex offender.

“They were very vicious rapes,” said St. Paul Police Sgt. Garry Velento in the 1990s.

Over the years, Hang Lee's mother and other family members agonized over not knowing what happened.

“That's my sister, she was like my best friend. But this is more finding closure for my mom and dad,” said Hang’s brother Koua Lee in 2005.

“I don't think that there's any hope, which is hard,” said Eileen Lee.

Hope of finding her alive may have faded, but there is new hope for answers after Mark Steven Wallace, the man police say was the last to see her alive, was arrested last month and charged with kidnapping and holding a woman against her will in a Woodbury motel.

The court paperwork in this kidnapping case reference Hang Lee several times, saying Wallace "is the sole suspect in the cold case disappearance of Hang Lee in 1993."

It states the victim "described fits of rage where Wallace would threaten to kill her, stating, ‘I've done it before, I will do it again.’"

According to the paperwork, the victim "asked Wallace about the murder, and Wallace stated, "She entered my business and never came out.""

Leads, in the past, have fizzled. A promising search of Wallace's home in 2009 ended up finding nothing.

But with the threat of a long prison sentence for the newest charges hanging over Wallace's head, investigators are hoping finally, they'll get some answers.

“She would be in her 40s now. And she could be having a nice life. She doesn't get that now,” Eileen Lee said.

Wallace has never been charged in the disappearance of Hang Lee.

Hang's family was paying close attention to the developments in the Jacob Wetterling case last week, and they hope a similar deal is possible to help them bring their loved one home.

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