On Tuesday morning, September 9th, a Queens resident murdered his wife and son in their Flushing apartment, then set their apartment on fire and committed suicide. This double murder-suicide was later discovered by firefighters and police who responded to the flames.
The bodies of Lee Jong-hoon, 50, Lee Sung-hae, 54, and their son, Brian Lee, 16, were found stacked on top of each other in the 6th floor apartment living room at the Blair House at 143-40 Roosevelt Avenue. The bodies were already burned to the point in which none could be identified. It was later discovered that the elder Mr.Lee had left a note – in Korean – for his relative. In the note, Lee described the family’s financial troubles and about being unable to pay the rent. A 2005 bankruptcy filing showed that the family had $100,000 in debt. According to an official from Flushing City Council Member Peter Koo’s office, the father was severely injured from a 2011 car accident that led to his deteriorating health which threatened his life: “If I die myself, it will cause too many problems for my child and wife,” Mr. Lee said in the note.
The bodies were found at roughly 5:30 a.m., after police and firefighters had responded to a neighbor’s call about smoke coming out of the 6th floor apartment window. Stab wounds were found on the bodies of all three people. A knife that was wet with blood, was also found near the bodies.
The evening before the fire, neighbors recalled hearing strange noises from the Lees’ apartment. “I heard some banging. It sounded like glass breaking,” said neighbor Lo Lee (who is not related to the Lees), who lived across the hall. Apparently, Mr. and Mrs. Lee had a heated quarrel before he killed his family, sources said. After the police arrived and labeled the area a crime scene, Lo Lee passed by the doorway of the apartment. “It was gruesome,” he said, “there was blood everywhere.” A window in the apartment was also shattered.
Before their deaths, Mr. Lee worked as a truck driver and Mrs. Lee a nail technician. Their son, Brian Lee, was a junior at Brooklyn Technical High School who was part of the concert band. A friend of his, who gave her name as Choi, said: “I still cannot believe this. I feel like I am watching a movie.” Friends on Brian’s Facebook page also left words of sympathy and condolence. Many noted that he was a bright and optimistic young man. He attended a youth group at the New Creation Presbyterian Church, led by Mr. Joseph Park. Friends at church knew that the family had a very good relationship with each other. “They don’t understand how someone who is supposed to love them could do such a thing,” Park said. “They are pretty shocked.”
The murder was a tragedy for Queens as a whole, and many BSGE students felt affected by this violent misfortune. Nick Anastasio’ 15, a Senior at BSGE, shared his opinions. “It’s frightening to think something as tragic as a family murdered would happen in a neighborhood in which many students of our school live in,” he said. Anastasio added, “All we can do, as residents of Queens, is be cautious and remain strong through this time of difficulty.”
Others at BSGE had slightly different thoughts. Mohammad Sarwarkon’ 17, a Sophomore at BSGE commented, “I think what the father did was really sweet and definitely depicts his love and affection towards his family, but he also took it too far.” He explained, “At the time it may have seemed like the best choice to him but I think he could’ve made a different decision.”
In attempt to extinguish the fire, three out of 60 firefighters suffered from minor injuries and were sent to the local New York Hospital Queens. Only a day earlier, a murder-suicide was committed on Flushing’s Main Street, in which a man shot a woman and then committed suicide after the long quarrel.