DETROIT (WJBK) - Detroit police are asking for the public's help identifying and locating a suspect after an elderly man was was found dead in a suspicious fire at a Detroit home Monday morning. Police say the fire may have been set to cover up another crime.
Just days before Thanksgiving, crews were called to 91-year-old Paul Monchnik's home in the 20500 block of Bentler on the city's northwest side for a fire, only to find his body lying near the front doorway. At first it appeared the retired TV repair man was overcome by the smoke, but now police say it's clear he was murdered.
"There was a burglary and we believe that during the suspect's entry into the home, there was an attack. However, in order for the suspect to cover his tracks, he decided to go, leave the location, obtain some gasoline, return and set the victim and the home on fire," Detroit Police Chief James Craig says.
Monchnik's missing Chevy Venture van was the first clue that the fire may have been something more sinister. Family members say there was nothing of real value inside his home.
Police spent the morning going door to door trying to see if neighbors heard or saw something out of the ordinary. One of them did.
"I was on the phone with my girlfriend and I looked over and I told her, 'Oh, he's at it again. He's about to go collect some TVs but it's 2 o'clock in the morning, what's he doing up?' And I just [saw] the person driving off with his car. Two minutes later, I walk in the house and we smell fire," says neighbor Gerald Stewart III.
Monchnik fathered three children in his nine decades. He also had four grandchildren and, just two weeks ago, got to meet his two great grandchildren who live on the west coast for the first time.
"He was a good man. Would have been nice for him to go out in his own time, in his own way, but that is not where we are at," says one of Monchnik's sons. "I hear these stories all the time going to work and I think I'm glad its not my dad, and this is the day that it is."
Monchnik's van is still missing. Police describe the suspect as a black man in his early 20s, about 5 feet 9 inches tall. He was wearing a red or orange skull cap and a gray hoodie. Police have released a picture of the suspect and say he was seen getting gas at a nearby station with Monchnik's missing van.
If you have any information about this crime, you're asked to call the Detroit Police Department.