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Man mourns wife as daughter is charged in her death
Family says daughter is mentally ill

NORCROSS - Gold Pak wept Wednesday in recalling his wife of 38 years. The smell of gasoline still wafted in his front yard, a patch of scorched Bermuda grass with a makeshift teddy bear memorial taped to a tree.

Pak pointed to his daughter's mugshot, to her angry eyes, as if they were windows to a tortured soul.

Pak's wife, Myong Hui Pak, 58, died from severe burns about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. His youngest daughter, Na Yong Pak, 32, is accused of dousing her mother in gasoline and setting the blaze Tuesday afternoon.

Family members said the incident was triggered by Na Yong Pak's ongoing bouts with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and manic depression, and also her refusal to take medication prescribed during recent stays at metro Atlanta psychiatric institutions. She was known to attack her mother, family members said, when convinced the woman had poisoned her food and Coca-Cola.

"(Hospital staff) said, 'It's OK, take her home,'" said Gold Pak, a truck driver at Buford Highway Farmer's Market, who emmigrated from South Korea with his wife in 1980. "They not right - they wrong."

For now, Na Yong Pak is charged with aggravated assault and aggravated battery for allegedly burning her mother at the 5300 Langston Road townhome they shared with Gold Pak and a brother. Those charges could be upgraded, Norcross police spokesman Capt. Brian Harr said.

A neighbor said the victim, who was consumed by flames, rolled in her yard, then used a garden house to extinguish herself.

The suspect's brother, who wished to remain anonymous, said Na Yong Puck was released from Georgia Regional Hospital of Atlanta in late January after she'd twice beat her mother with Coke cans. Upon her discharge, she was prescribed antidepressants but refused to take them, he said.

"She wasn't stabilized when she got out," he said. "She wasn't right. She had a glaze in her eyes."

Dena Smith, a spokeswoman for the hospital, couldn't confirm that Pak was a patient at the facility, nor would she disclose the duration of Pak's reported stay. She declined further comment.

Discharge papers provided by the family show Na Yong Pak's prognosis was "fair, at best" upon her release.

Danny Porter, Gwinnett District Attorney, said if police don't pull the initial arrest warrants for Pak and file murder charges, she would later be indicted for murder.

Porter said his office will give consideration to Pak's mental health and speak with her family before moving forward.

"Given the facts of the case," said Porter, "the mental health issues will certainly play a role in how she's prosecuted, and what the eventual disposition of the case will be."

Tumultuous past

Court records confirm the mother-daughter clash wasn't a first.

Na Yong Pak was charged with family violence battery and two counts of simple battery on Sept. 11 last year for allegedly punching her mother in the face, back and chest, causing swelling around her eyes, according to arrest warrants. That attack also happened at the Langston Road address, the documents say. She later posted $1,300 and was released.

Attorney David Savoy, who represented Na Yong Pak in the battery case, filed a petition in Gwinnett State Court on Sept. 18 for a psychiatric evaluation. A hearing to discuss the status of that evaluation was scheduled Jan. 9, but it's unclear if that took place.

"Beyond what's public record, I really can't discuss anything," Savoy said Wednesday.

An initial appearance for Na Yong Pak, wherein her charges will be outlined, is scheduled today in Gwinnett Magistrate Court. She remains in the Gwinnett County Jail without bond.

Family members said the suspect is separated from her child and husband, who live near Columbus. Her mother pressed her to go back for further treatment, they said.

Charmaine Pennant, a next-door neighbor of the Paks, said the victim's inability to speak much English didn't hamper her extroversion.

"She was very nice," Pennant said. "She walks (around the neighborhood) all day long."

Her opinion of Na Yong Pak, the suspect, was less flowery.

"She never spoke. You could say 'Hi' and she'd never respond," Pennant said. "Everyone knew she kind of had some mental problems."

Funeral arraignments for the victim are pending, family members said.