LOS ANGELES - A murder investigation is underway after an elderly woman’s family made a gruesome discovery at her Woodland Hills home, and investigators are seeking the public's help to assist with information on the suspect or suspects responsible for the horrific crime.
Family members became worried after they had not heard from 81-year-old Ok Ja Kim, so they went to her home and discovered her body on Tuesday night and immediately called 911.
Officers with the Los Angeles Police Department were called to the home located north of De Soto Avenue and the 101 Freeway just after 7:45 p.m. after receiving a radio call of a "dead body possible fire arson involved." Shortly after arriving at the scene, officers found signs of forced entry and a possible burglary.
While inspecting the home, the LAPD said officers found Kim’s body lying on the ground and half of her body under her bed. She was semi-charred, unconscious, and not breathing. She was pronounced dead at the scene by LA City firefighters.
"It’s generally a quiet neighborhood. [It’s] upper middle class, so a crime like this that’s violent is pretty unusual for this neighborhood," said LAPD Det. Sharon Kim.
LAPD investigators believe someone broke into Kim's home, killed her, took some of her belongings, and even tried to set her house on fire in the process. The preliminary investigation reveals someone closed the door of the room where her body was found, which prevented the home and some evidence from going up in flames.
LAPD detectives said the neighborhood has numerous elderly residents, and they have been concerned with the recent crime spree they’ve seen in the area – particularly crimes involving people experiencing homelessness.
SUGGESTED: Man found stabbed to death in Woodland Hills
"I have noticed that there is a large transient population in this neighborhood, and we’re not sure if that might be related, but that’s something we all have to be aware of when we’re coming from and going to our homes," said Det. Kim.
Det. Kim offered another theory on why the octogenarian was perhaps targeted.
"As you know, the lady that lived here was Korean. I'm Korean… that cultural background.. elderly carry large amounts of cash… or being elderly in general."
Forensic investigators continue to canvass the home and the area for evidence.
Anyone with information is asked to contact LAPD’s Valley Homicide Bureau at 818-347-1925. Those who wish to remain anonymous can submit tips online.