Fire that killed Columbia man set by victim

Police say there was no forced entry into house, no evidence of foul play

February 25, 2010|By Don Markus | don.markus@baltsun.com

The house fire that killed a 62-year-old Columbia man last week was set by the victim, Howard County police said Tuesday.

Soo Wan Hong of the 7200 block of Riding Hood Circle had to be identified through dental records because his body was so badly burned, police said.

"Our investigators took a number of things into account before making a determination that this was a suicide, including some of Mr. Hong's actions in the days leading up to the fire, as well as some information they gathered since the incident occurred, " police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said.

Llewellyn said there was no forced entry into the house or any evidence of foul play. She wouldn't say whether Hong left a note or used an accelerant to start the fire.

The state medical examiner's office has yet to determine a cause of death, Llewellyn said.

Police and neighbors said Hong, who was retired from a Columbia-based distributor of Korean foods, lived alone and did not have any immediate relatives living in the United States.

Marianne Hollerbach, Hong's next-door neighbor, said in an e-mail Saturday that she heard and felt an explosion shortly after 5 a.m.

She called 911 and went with her daughter to Hong's house after seeing flames shooting from the second-floor window. They broke ground-floor windows to get into the house and called out to Hong, but were unable to make it upstairs because the fire was so intense.

Hollerbach's daughter rescued Hong's two Shih Tzus. Hollerbach said the dogs were taken to a local animal shelter.

Llewellyn said the room in which Hong was found was "pretty much destroyed by the fire."

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