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Man Charged in Death of His Children in Blaze

April 15, 2006|Peter Y. Hong | Times Staff Writer

A father accused of burning his two children to death in the family's sport utility vehicle was charged Friday with two counts of murder and could face the death penalty if convicted, prosecutors said.

Dae Kwon Yun, 54, allegedly locked himself and his 11-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son in his Toyota Sequoia on April 2 and started a fire in the passenger compartment.

Yun, who survived the blaze, remains hospitalized and is being held without bail. His arraignment is pending due to his medical condition, prosecutors said. Los Angeles County district attorney spokeswoman Jane Robison said it was unknown whether Yun had retained a lawyer.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Todd Hicks said that Yun was charged with two special circumstances of multiple murders and murder during commission of an arson, either of which makes him eligible for the death penalty.

A committee of nine prosecutors will decide whether to seek the death penalty for Yun, weighing aggravating circumstances against those that might mitigate the charges.

Mitigating circumstances could include whether the accused was extremely mentally or emotionally disturbed.

Yun pleaded guilty two years ago to beating his wife and was sentenced to two years probation. He reportedly was being counseled at a Koreatown social services organization.

On the day of the fire, Yun had reportedly told his wife that he was taking the children to see a movie.

Yun drove to a deserted alleyway in the downtown Los Angeles garment district, where he had owned a garment manufacturing business that failed recently.

Los Angeles Police detectives said that Yun had splashed the interior with fuel. Yun fell out of the vehicle and was badly burned. The children, Ashley and Alexander, were found dead in the SUV when firefighters arrived at the scene.

Other garment district business owners who knew the family said that Yun had struggled financially. The family had moved out of a house in Hancock Park and Yun was separated from his wife, Sun Ok Ma, who had filed for divorce a week before the fire.

Merchants in the garment district said that Yun had borrowed money from them. Yun's wife told police that Yun had gambling debts and may have been living in his car.

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