Oakland Tribune / Argus

Blaze at Hair Salon Possible Homicide-Suicide Attempt

Girl, Father Badly Hurt in Newark: Police Consider Blaze at Hair Salon Possible Homicide-Suicide Attempt

NEWARK — A day after a fire at a hair salon severely injured a man and his 7-year-old daughter, police are investigating the possibility that the 51-year-old man set the fire intentionally in an attempt to kill them both.

“Talk about ghoulish and hideous,” Newark police Capt. Lance Morrison said Wednesday. “Right around Christmastime. It just doesn’t add up. All the officers at the scene were shaking their heads.”

Ching Chi, a Fremont resident with a significant criminal record, suffered second- and third-degree burns to about 80 percent of his body, police said. He was listed in critical condition Wednesday.

His daughter also suffered burns and from smoke inhalation. She was transferred to intensive care at Shriners Hospital in Sacramento and was reported in critical condition. Her condition Wednesday was unavailable.

“The percentage of her body damaged by the fire wasn’t as high as the father’s, but the burns she did sustain were very significant,” Morrison

About 1:50 a.m. Tuesday, Newark police and fire personnel responded to alarms from the businesses flanking World Hair Design in a shopping center near Highway 84 anchored by a Raley’s grocery store.

Three fire engines, almost a dozen firefighters and two ambulances responded to the blaze, fire officials said.

When they arrived, plumes of smoke were billowing from the hair salon, at 6263 Jarvis Ave. Two neighboring businesses, Sweet Zone and Venus Bakery, also sustained damage and were closed Wednesday.

Friends and nearby merchants say Chi once co-owned the hair salon with 34- year-old Kyung Choi, the mother of their 7-year-old daughter. Choi still owns the business. A friend of Choi’s said the couple broke up more than a year ago.

By 1999, they had been together for more than 10 years and were living together in Union City, according to court records. Choi now lives in Newark.

It is unclear whether they ever were formally married, police said. The couple shared custody of the daughter, who was staying with her father Monday night, police said.

The couple’s relationship was troubled.

In November 2002, Chi was arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon and spousal abuse — both felonies — after attacking Choi with a hammer in the salon, Morrison said. She suffered traumatic injuries. A friend of Choi’s said he wrapped the hammer in a towel and bludgeoned her several times, leaving defensive bruises on her arm and elsewhere.

In July 1999, Chi was placed on three years’ probation for possessing two unlicensed, loaded handguns, according to court records.

On Wednesday, friends of the former couple said Chi was trying to get back at his ex-girlfriend for breaking up with him and taking control of the business by destroying himself, their daughter and the store.

“I can definitely say that that’s one of the things we are looking at,” Morrison said, though he added, “There’s a myriad of potential

Police said a petroleum-based substance was found in the building after the fire was extinguished but had no more details.

Glass shards litter the floor of the scorched store, its windows covered with newspapers. Sheetrock was sheared off at least one of the bowed-out walls, a fire official said.