ROCKWALL, Texas - Investigators believe an early Monday morning house fire in Rockwall was intentionally started to cover up a couple’s murder-suicide. Their 5-year-old daughter was the only survivor.
Firefighters were called to the family's home on White Water Lane near Carruth Lake and John King Boulevard around 5 a.m.
Inside the home, firefighters discovered the bodies of 39-year-old Yoon "Debbie" Kim and her husband, 42-year-old Hyun Seop Lee. Their 5-year-old daughter was later found asleep in their car parked in the driveway.
Police believe Lee shot Kim with a handgun and then started the fire before he shot himself.
"Evidence at the scene indicates that was likely the cause of the deaths prior to the fire being set,” said Rockwall Police Sgt. Aaron McGrew.
Kim was an assistant professor at Texas A&M-Commerce where she taught construction technology. Students and faculty say they knew something was wrong when Kim didn't show up for a final exam Monday morning.
Administrators say Kim was a rising star in her department. She was someone loved by her students.
“She was a woman engineer, which was a marvelous combination. She was extremely intelligent and extremely outgoing. Very warm,” University President Dr. Ray Keck. “Debbie Kim was an enormously popular teacher. A very charismatic, outgoing person. So the shock and the horror among her students and colleagues will be very great.”
Lee taught for one semester at the university in 2016 in the engineering department. Most recently, he taught at Grambling State University in Louisiana and drove in to be with his wife and daughter on weekends.
A close friend, who did not want to speak on camera, says Lee had recently spoken of friction in the relationship. But, otherwise, there were no outward signs of distress. The friend believes one of the parents was trying to leave with the daughter when the fight erupted.
Emily Lee says she had just exchanged texts with Debbie about getting together later this week.
"We going to meet together this Friday, and she said, ‘Oh yeah,’” Lee recalled. “So we have no intention or any idea what's going on at the house."
Neighbor Aaron Bray saw flames shooting through the back of the house. He said his children often played with the little girl and described the couple as great neighbors.
"It was disheartening that both parents passed away,” he said. “They were a very sweet family.”
A family friend told FOX 4 that Debbie grew up in South Korea and then moved to work in the United States after college. She has no family in this country. Her 5-year-old daughter will remain in CPS custody until a relative can fly in.
Police say they had no call history at the home.