FLUSHING, Queens (PIX11) -- It originated as a 911 call about an apartment fire, but ended up being the scene of multiple deadly crimes.
All day Tuesday, and into the night, investigators with both the NYPD and FDNY were at the apartment on Roosevelt Avenue shared by the Lee Family, after the father, Yong Hun Lee, 50, slashed the throats of his wife and teenage son, and then tried to torch their home before using the knife to slash his own throat.
It was a grisly scene that firefighters came upon after receiving the 911 call at 4:50 A.M. Tuesday. Slumped in a heap amid the flames and smoke were the bodies of Lee and his wife, Sung Hye Lee, 54, and their son, Brian Lee, 15, according to investigators.
It was not a big fire -- firefighters were able to put it out in just a few minutes, but that was because, according to neighbors, a resident in the building happened to leave for work unusually late, and called in the report of smoke.
After it was put out, a massive crime was opened up. Police shut down the entire block to allow for vehicles from the NYPD crime scene unit, detective bureau, FDNY fire investigations, the fire marshal and, most notably, the medical examiner's office, to take over the street.
Along with them were patrol officers, crime scene technicians, homicide detectives, fire marshals and fire investigators. It was a fairly rare sight to see so many people from such a wide array of city agencies all in one place. The case was clearly big, and not typical.
"Just sad you know?" said one woman, who was translating for a friend who identified himself only as Mr. Lee. He said in Mandarin Chinese, translated by her, that he was no relation to the deceased family, but lived on the same floor with them. "Nice family, nice family," his friend interpreted for him.
He told PIX11 News that the Lees had lived in the building, called the Blair House, for 20 years. It's a middle class co-op, but, according to investigators, Lee had fallen on hard times financially, and decided to take out his frustration and embarrassment on his family and on himself.
"It's heartbreaking, its very very sad," said Pauline Schwager, a resident of the building, who knew Mr. Lee. "Scary, really, scary," she said, describing what had happened.
"Nobody heard anything," fellow resident Sharone David told PIX11 News. "Nobody smelled anything, until only the next door neighbor [called 911]. I'm just glad they caught it in time, at least the smoke."
The apartment building is next to LIRR tracks, and the sound of the double-murder-suicide may have been drowned out by passing trains below. It was also the second was murder-suicide case in the neighborhood within a 12-hour period.
At 5:33 P.M. Monday, according to detectives and witnesses, Xie Bin, 51, shot and killed Ya Ling Meng, 46, a former girlfriend, on 41st Avenue, near the corner of Main Street, just two and-a-half blocks from Tuesday morning's double-murder- suicide scene.
The combined crimes have left some residents of the neighborhood shaken up emotionally.
"I am surprised," said one Flushing resident, who did not want to give her name. "While it's busy over here, things like this don't normally happen. No muggings, nothing. So these things are like big shock."
In Tuesday's killings and fire, the father, Yong Hun Lee, had left behind a suicide note, according to investigators close to the case. In it, he discussed the financial problems that he found to be so unbearable that he felt compelled to take his family's life.
Another resident of the Lee's building, who asked not to be identified, told PIX11 News that she and other neighbors, who were saddened by the deaths, were angry also. They were outraged that in addition to fatally slashing his and his family's throats, Lee had lit a fire in his home that could have spread to the rest of the building.
"Not only did he kill his family," the woman said, "why did he endanger the rest of our lives as well?"