WOODLAND HILLS, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The body of an 81-year-old woman was found after a fire erupted at a home in Woodland Hills that had been ransacked, prompting authorities to launch a murder investigation.
Firefighters responded shortly after 7:30 p.m. Tuesday to a 1,404-square-foot residence in the 20000 block of West Martha Street, where they found evidence of a fire that had already been extinguished before their arrival, the Los Angeles Fire Department said.
Police were summoned to the scene of a possible arson, and relatives told officers that the woman's body was inside the house, where she lived alone, said Officer Tony Im of the Los Angeles Police Department.
The victim was later identified as Ok Ja Kim. A family member had initially found her deceased and saw evidence of the fire.
"Officers located the victim in her bedroom, laying on the ground, and half her body under her bed," the LAPD said in a statement. "She was semi-charred, unconscious and not breathing."
The official cause of death was not immediately disclosed.
Investigators discovered evidence of a forced entry and possible burglary at the single-story residence, Im said.
The number of possible suspects involved in the crime was unknown, and no description was available. Police investigators said they believe the incident occurred sometime between Monday morning and Tuesday evening.
"There's a lot of elderly residents that live in this neighborhood, retired and such," LAPD Detective Sharon Kim told reporters at the scene. "So a lot of criminals will sometimes target elderly people because they're easy victims."
She encouraged residents "just to be hyper-vigilant in this neighborhood, when you're leaving your residence or coming back, just being aware of your surroundings. And if there's any strange activity -- you see cars that you don't recognize or people walking in your neighborhood that you don't recognize -- especially if they're in close vicinity as you're going into your house or leaving from your house, it's always important to be aware."
Anyone with information about the case is urged to call Detective Steve Castro of the LAPD's Valley Bureau Homicide Division at (818) 374-1925.