A 91-year-old man was beaten, then doused with gasoline before he and his home in northwest Detroit were set afire by a burglar, police said.
Paul Monchnik, a retired TV repairman, was found dead in his burning home in the 20500 block of Bentler Court around 3 a.m. Monday.
“He lived by himself; he was nearly deaf, so he lived in his own little world and got along in his own little world very comfortably,” said son Scott Monchnik, 56, who learned Monday morning of his father’s brutal death.
Detroit police said they are looking for a suspect who they believe was caught on surveillance cameras buying gasoline at a nearby station. Police said they believe the burglar set the fire in an effort to cover his tracks.
“This is a horrible crime, we’re asking for your help,” Police Chief James Craig said at a news conference at police headquarters. “We’re going to do everything we can to identify this person. We do know there was a burglary. We believe during the suspect’s entry into this home, there was an attack. However, in order for the suspect to cover his tracks, he decided to leave the location, obtain some gasoline, return and set the victim and home on fire.”
Craig said the killer stole the victim’s 2000 silver Chevrolet van.
“This must end,” Craig said. “As we’ve talked about overall crime this year, we’re still on a decline, but it’s instances like this, an elderly man who was known by his neighbors, spent all of his life working, providing service in repairing televisions. We’re going to fight hard to identify who’s responsible for this.”
It wasn’t clear this morning whether Monchnik died as a result of the beating or the fire. An autopsy was conducted this morning to determine the cause and manner of death, said Lloyd Jackson, spokesman for the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office.
The suspect is described as black, in his early 20s, 5-foot 9-inches, with a medium complexion. He was last seen wearing a red or orange skull cap, with a gray hoodie and University of Michigan basketball pants. The stolen van’s license plate is CNU1721.
Scott Monchnik said his father arrived in Detroit as a child immigrant from Poland. He worked as a TV repairman for about 40-50 years.
Even though he was in his 90s, Paul Monchnik continued to take care of himself, keeping groomed and well-fed, reading his newspaper to keep up with current events, his son said.
“I don’t think he ever in his wildest dreams thought he would be a statistic or a news highlight of the day,” he said.
He said his father’s home is in a cul-de-sac with neighbors who would help and look out for him, so he wasn’t especially worried about the 91-year-old living alone in Detroit.
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