OAKLAND -- A man who committed suicide in March by setting himself on fire had killed his 77-year-old aunt the month before during a home-invasion robbery he staged in their apartment to get money to apparently pay off gambling debts, authorities said Friday.
After being presented with DNA and other evidence gathered by police in the death of Susan Fong on Feb. 7, prosecutors decided the case could be closed under the legal concept of death of the offender -- her nephew Richard Fang, authorities said.
Alameda County district attorney spokeswoman Teresa Drenick said the case was "intensively investigated by the Oakland Police Department and thoroughly reviewed by this office. It has been determined that the person responsible for the murder of Mrs. Fong is now deceased. We are certain we have identified the offender and he is no longer alive."
Fang, 56, committed suicide March 1 by setting himself on fire along the walkway of the apartment in the 1800 block of 34th Avenue in the Fruitvale district, where police say he had staged a home invasion robbery Feb. 7.
Officers responding to a welfare check request about 2:15 p.m. Feb. 7 found Fong dead with both she and her nephew tied up inside an upper floor apartment of a building Fong owned and where Fang had lived for many years as her caretaker, police said.
The only thing missing from the apartment was money. Other valuables were untouched, police said.
Fong died of probable asphyxia due to tape applied over her nose and mouth. Fang also had tape over his mouth. Authorities later learned she had been given an extra sleeping pill the night before by her nephew.
Fang was originally considered a cooperative victim, telling investigators he and his aunt were robbed, bound and taped by two men who broke into the apartment. But as the investigation continued, police starting having doubts about his account, said Officer Robert Trevino, the lead investigator.
Trevino said police began hearing rumors Fang had gambling debts. They also determined that as Fong's caretaker he had been embezzling money from her. Trevino, who has also investigated many home invasion robberies and burglaries, began to suspect the robbery was staged by Fang and police recovered evidence indicating Fang had bound himself. Police also have other evidence they would not disclose.
Trevino said police had planned to question Fang as a suspect.
Fang was never told that and before he could be brought in for an interview, he committed suicide. Whether it was guilt that caused him to end his life isn't known, as he left no notes and as far as police know never told anyone what happened.
Attempts to reach family members Friday were unsuccessful.