Firefighters find 2 bodies in store

Officials say pair were choked, stabbed

January 08, 2004|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

Two people whose bodies were discovered by firefighters battling a blaze in a Southeast Baltimore business had been stabbed and choked before the fire, officials said.

Last night, detectives were trying to confirm the identities of the two victims, described as an Asian man and woman, who were found in the one-story Fancy Signs Inc. at 6304 Eastern Ave. about 12:45 a.m. yesterday.

Preliminary information indicated the man may be the owner of the establishment, police officials said. He was found dead on a mattress and apparently had stab wounds as well as burns, police officials said.

Firefighters found the woman inside the business and took her outside, where they confirmed that she was dead. She had injuries consistent with being choked, police officials said.

Her identity could not be determined, but neighbors and police said she might be the owner's wife or friend.

It is not clear whether the pair died in the fire or earlier, and detectives were awaiting results of an autopsy performed yesterday. Police would not say what caused the blaze.

Detectives found no signs of forced entry, and the back door was open when firefighters arrived, police said.

Yesterday morning, police were combing through potential evidence in the burned-out storefront business on busy Eastern Avenue, and piles of burned and soaked debris could be seen through cracked and broken front windows.

The business specialized in making large signs, including neon ones, for businesses.

Neighbors said an Asian couple ran Fancy Signs, and that the man did not speak much English and could often be seen working on lettering for awnings on the sidewalk. They said the couple lived in a back room of the business and were always friendly.

"They were really quiet people," said Robert Smith, 39, owner of The American Tattoo Co., which is two doors down from Fancy Signs. "They were always cool."

Donna Hilse, 53, who works at A&D Electrolysis next door to Fancy Signs, said the couple were always courteous to customers and neighbors.

Anyone with information is urged to call Detective Shawn McKnight at 410-396-2100.

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