Police believe a Vancouver man apparently distressed by financial troubles and his failed marriage died along with five of his children when he set fire to his home Easter morning.
Evidence at the scene suggests that the family died as a result of a fire intentionally set by Tuan Dao, Vancouver police officials confirmed this morning. The fire was caused by liquid fuels set ablaze to trigger an explosion.
Believed to have died in the fire were Dao, 37; Nolan A. Dao, 12; Noah A. Dao, 9; Jacob A. Dao, 9; Samantha A. Dao, 8; and Nathan A. Dao, 6.
Dental records are being used to confirm the identities of Dao and the five children.
“The surviving immediate family is aware of this investigative presumption and is assisting with the identification process,” according to a news release.
All six bodies suffered fire-induced skull fractures, indicating that they died from exposure to the sudden blaze.
Tuan and Lori Dao owned the house at 15304 N.E. 13th Circle, according to court papers from September 2010. Neighbors and family friends confirmed Lori Dao and her eldest daughter, Alena, 13, were not home at the time of the fire.
A makeshift memorial that emerged Tuesday along a swiftly erected chain-link fence included a white piece of paper that listed names and ages of five children believed to have perished in the fire.
The paper contained the words “in memory of,” with an arrow pointing to the children’s names and ages — Nolan (11), Noah (9), Jacob (9), Samantha (7) and Nathan (6). The note was signed “From Friends at Harthwood (sic).”
Police had declined until this morning to confirm neighbors’ suspicions about who died in the fire and what caused it.
A neighbor’s surveillance footage showed a man driving a white Toyota Corolla into the driveway around 12:38 a.m. Sunday. One hour later, residents reported hearing a loud noise and then seeing high, arching flames shooting from the house. The car remains in the driveway.
According to the press release, “The investigation to this point has identified only Tuan Dao as the possible suspect in this incident. There is no information at this time that there are other outstanding suspects. The investigation is continuing as detectives attempt to corroborate information regarding Mr. Dao’s activities in the days prior to the fire.”
Sgt. Scott Creager said investigators are looking at Dao’s recent financial transactions and matching those records against interviews with retail outlets.
The Daos filed for bankruptcy last year with $158,000 in credit card debt, according to court records. The paperwork also disclosed $2,000 in gambling losses. They owed $262,000 on the home that burned. The home was valued at $179,000.
Earlier this year, the family loaded its belongings into a moving unit, seemingly never to return. But Tuan Dao, who worked for FedEx in Portland, returned to the house in recent weeks. His wife, an employee of US Bank in Vancouver, did not, according to neighbors and family friends.
Neither filed for divorce, Clark County records show.