Investigators now believe there was foul play behind Sunday’s fire at a house in As Gonno where the bodies of a Chinese couple were found completely charred in their bedroom.
Department of Public Safety Commissioner James Deleon Guerrero told Saipan Tribune yesterday that the case has been classified as a double homicide.
NMI Crime Stoppers Program coordinator Jason Tarkong disclosed yesterday that further investigation and crime scene processing determined that arson was involved.
As this developed, the victims’ family members suspect that robbery was the motive and that possibly more than two people were behind the arson and killing.
Tarkong said that Guo Huang Xu, 40, male, had signs of blunt trauma to the head, while the injuries of Qing Xiu Zheng, 38, female, were still unknown.
Tarkong said both bodies were charred as a result of the fire.
Tarkong said that DPS received an emergency call on Sunday at 10:58pm, about a fire in As Gonno. Responders came upon a tin house that was completely engulfed in flames. Firefighters put out the blaze within minutes and discovered the victims’ remains.
Tarkong said a family member of one of the victims told police that he received a phone call from victim Xu, who asked for him to come over to their house right away. About four minutes later, the family member arrived at the house and found the tin house on fire.
“This case is actively being investigated pending an autopsy,” Tarkong said.
Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help for information leading to an arrest in this case.
Saipan Tribune learned that the persons who first responded to the house were Qing Shan Zheng, 45, his wife, and their 21-year-old son. The three are farmers who live in a farm next to the victims’ farm.
Qing Shan Zheng is a brother of female victim Qing Xiu Zheng. He received the phone call from his brother-in-law Xu on Sunday at about 10:38pm.
According to Qing Shan Zheng, they were already sleeping when he received the call from his brother-in-law who asked him to come to their house immediately.
Qing Shan Zheng said he heard his sister crying and the sound of fire in the background. The phone signal was then cut.
Qing Shan Zheng, his wife, and their 21-year-old son boarded their pickup truck and immediately proceeded to the victims’ house, located on Magisa Drive corner Empanada Lane.
Upon the three’s arrival, they found the house already engulfed in flames. They tried to douse the fire with water but the fire was already too big. One of them then called 911.
Firefighters allegedly arrived after about 20 minutes.
Qing Shan Zheng and his other sister, Qing Ying Zheng, 43, told Saipan Tribune that they believe there were more than two suspects and were possibly armed because their brother-in-law was strong and could engage them in a fistfight.
Qing Shan Zheng also disclosed that when they arrived, the bedroom door was already open. He said they also saw fire on the concrete floor at the entrance of the bedroom, bolstering their suspicion that the suspects poured gas on the house.
Qing Shan Zheng and his sister Qing Ying Zheng said they are not aware of any enemies of the couple, who according to them, were good and hardworking farmers and never engaged in gambling or other illegal activities.
“They’re nice guys. They were never arrested,” said the sister, who is manager of a store in Koblerville.
The couple’s two children—ages 5 and 13—are currently in Fujian Province, China. The 5-year-old was born in the CNMI, while the other was born in China.
The sister said their parents and the couple’s two children and the father of the male victim will be flying in from China. She said the bodies will be taken to China for burial.
The couple had been farming in a leased property in As Gonno for more than two years now. They had been supplying vegetables at hotels and other stores on the island.
Qing Ying Zheng said the couple first went to Tinian where they worked as farmers in 2004. In 2008 the couple transferred to Saipan where they worked as farmers in Finasisu, As Lito, and finally in As Gonno.