In their Leesburg neighborhood of Edwards Landing, Kyung and Dae Hwang struck everyone as a couple full of love and generosity.
In good weather, the Hwangs were often outside their two-
story stone-and-stucco home, tending their lush garden and beckoning neighbors’ kids to come over and pick out apples and plums. When it snowed, Kyung, 63, a pastor and hardware store employee, volunteered to clear neighbors’ driveways with his snowblower. Dae, 57, sometimes roamed house to house, dropping off plates of her homemade tempura, sushi and noodles.
But on Saturday morning, neighbors along Chickasaw Place saw a much different image: law enforcement authorities leading Dae outside her home and into the back seat of a police cruiser. Later that day, the Leesburg police charged Dae with first-degree murder in the slaying of her husband. She is being held without bond.
The killing in the well-kept subdivision near Tuscarora High School startled neighbors, who could not fathom the spasm of violence on their street. Kyung’s death was the first slaying of the year for Leesburg, a city of about 40,000 residents where homicides are rare.
Capt. Clagett Moxley of the Leesburg police said Kyung suffered “several stab wounds all over the body.” Knives have been recovered from the Hwangs’ home, and authorities are awaiting the autopsy report to confirm the official cause of death. Police said they had never responded to the house for any emergency before Saturday’s visit.
On Saturday morning, just past 6, it was Dae who called 911. Moxley said police think the husband was dead before the call was made.
When police arrived, Dae let officers into the home, Moxley said. Kyung’s body was found in an upstairs bedroom.
“We are still trying to determine what caused this to occur,” Moxley said.
So are the neighbors.
Douglas van Norden, 63, a chief technology officer at a federal contracting firm who lives next door to the Hwangs, said they left Korea shortly after the Korean War and moved to Canada. Eventually, the couple wound up in Northern Virginia and have lived in Edwards Landing for about nine years. They have two grown daughters, who live and work in the Northeast as medical professionals.
Last year, a few days after July 4, Kyung told van Norden that he and his wife had become U.S. citizens on Independence Day.
“I congratulated him and gripped his shoulder and said, ‘On the Fourth of July, you can’t do better than that,’ ” van Norden said. “Kyung just beamed.”
Not once in nine years of living next to the Hwangs did van Norden sense friction between the couple. Their little dog was named Happy.
“When they entertained on the back deck with friends over, they always seemed so poised and natural,” van Norden said. “That’s the most pleasant thing to hear in the world — the gentle laughter of people who genuinely love each other’s company.”
Kyung and van Norden formed the informal Snowblower Club, a squad of five or six neighbors who cleared sidewalks and driveways in the winter.
He added that Dae formed a deep bond with another neighbor across the street, who had recently adopted a Korean child. Dae, once a classroom assistant at a school in eastern Loudoun County, was so popular with her students that they and their parents sometimes visited her at her home, van Norden said. She was very modest.
“One of the loveliest aspects about her was that she played the piano, and if the windows were open, I could hear her sing,” he said. “Once, I said to her, ‘You have a lovely voice.’ She blushed. She smiled. Then, she covered her mouth and said, ‘I didn’t know you could hear me.’ ”
On Sunday, a reporter visited the Hwangs’ home but was turned away at the door by a young man. Parked in the driveway was a truck from the Aftermath company, “specialists in biohazard management.”
Nonprofit tax forms list Kyung as the sole contact for Nova First Church, whose address is the same as his Leesburg home. But the forms, which say the church was founded in 2002, contain no financial information. Police said they have been unable to reach church members.
Cheri Shields, 49, who lives across the street from the Hwangs, said she will most remember Kyung for visiting her home in August and praying over her mother, who had been staying with her as she succumbed to cancer.
“Kyung and Dae would come over regularly,” Shields recalled. “He’d speak Korean and hold my mother’s hand. They were sweet, loving people.”