Fairfax charges retired Army officer in deaths of wife, daughter

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Date: 2010-06-15

By Tom Jackman

A recently retired Army lieutenant colonel killed his wife and teenage daughter in their Fairfax County apartment Monday morning, then drove to an Army hospital at Fort Belvoir, told authorities what he had done and tried to have himself admitted, police said.

Instead, he was taken to the Fairfax County jail and charged with two counts of murder.

Neighbors at the Gunston Corner condominium complex, on Cardinal Forest Lane in the Lorton area, said they heard nothing until Fairfax police officers showed up about 8:30 a.m. In the apartment, officers found the bodies of Hyon C. Yi, 47, and her daughter, Joy J. Yi, 15, authorities said.

Police declined to say how the Yis were killed pending an autopsy Tuesday morning.

Police said they found out about the slayings from Kenston K. Yi, 49, a West Point graduate who an Army spokesman said had retired from the service in August after 30 years' active duty.

Yi showed up at the DeWitt Army Community Hospital on Fort Belvoir at 8:24 a.m., police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said. Yi told the hospital staff that "he was involved in a tragic event," Caldwell said, declining to provide specifics of Yi's statements.

Caldwell said that it was not immediately apparent how Hyon and Joy Yi were killed but that police do not think they were shot or stabbed. Investigators also do not think that there was a long period between when they were killed and when Kenston Yi drove to Fort Belvoir, which is a short distance from the family's Lorton apartment.

"She was such a nice lady," Cathy Kidwell, a neighbor, said of Hyon Yi. "Hardworking. I always saw her going to work." About Joy Yi, Kidwell said, "I can't imagine someone would do that to that little girl."

Joy Yi was a freshman at South County Secondary School, also a short drive from the family's apartment, Fairfax schools officials said. It could not be determined Monday where Hyon Yi worked.

Roger D. Sombat, a real estate agent who rented the two-bedroom apartment to the Yis last year, said that the family had planned to move into a house recently but that the deal fell through.

Relatives could not be reached for comment yesterday.

According to postings on his Facebook and LinkedIn pages, Kenston Yi graduated from Cleveland Heights High School in suburban Ohio in 1979. Army records show that he enlisted that year in field artillery.

Yi graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1986, school officials confirmed. Yi wrote that his West Point degree was in computer science. He wrote that he had obtained master's degrees from Central Michigan University in 1996 and the National Defense University in 2006.

Army records show that Yi worked as a major for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon until his promotion to lieutenant colonel in 2003 and that he worked in various information technology posts in the Washington area until his retirement last year. Most recently, Yi worked for the National Guard Bureau in Arlington County on the staff of the chief information officer, a bureau spokesman said.

Real estate records indicate that Yi and his wife were somewhat active in buying and selling houses in Northern Virginia in the past decade, with some successes followed by more-recent reversals. Police declined to comment on whether the family's financial dealings might have had any role in the homicides.

Records show that from 2000 to 2004, the Yis bought three properties in Fairfax County and then sold them, sometimes in less than two months, for a profit of more than $293,000.

But in 2005, they bought a house in the Lake Occoquan area of Prince William County for $964,000 and then sold it three years later for $950,000. A Lorton house they bought in 2004 was sold in October 2009 at a $55,000 loss. And the family still owns a Centreville townhouse that was purchased for $432,500 in 2005 and that is now assessed at less than $300,000.

Gerald L. King, who served with Kenston Yi when both were executive officers in the Army in Korea, was shocked by news of Yi's arrest. "I've never seen him really angry. I've not seen him aggressive in any way at all. He's not physically a big guy. I can't conceive what could have led to this."

Kenston Yi only recently joined Facebook, apparently as part of an assignment for a class, and he posted a photo of himself with his wife and daughter as his profile picture. "Hey Facebooking friends," Yi wrote in his last post, March 13, "am still little lost in this space . . . will have to get a fresher tng [training] from my 9th grade daughter."

Staff researcher Meg Smith and staff writer Josh White contributed to this report.


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