Reward grows, details emerge as Oceanside police seek a killer

Police revealed new details Wednesday in the slaying of an elderly Oceanside man who may have been asleep when he was attacked inside his home, possibly during a botched burglary.

The new details — including that police recovered potential DNA and fingerprints from the suspect — came as police asked for tips to help them solve slaying of 77-year-old John Roth.

In a news conference in front of the victim’s home, Oceanside police Detective Erik Ellgard also announced an increased award of $6,000 for information leading to the arrest of a suspect.

Around 6:30 a.m. on Aug. 14, Roth’s wife, Zui Pang, returned from work and found his body in their home, a three-story duplex on North Tremont Street at Surfrider Way.

Police are not saying how Roth died, other than that he had sustained significant trauma to his upper body.

“I cannot accept the way John passed away,” Pang said through tears Wednesday. “I’m asking for help. Anybody (with) information, please report to the police department. We want to catch the person who did this.”

It appears Roth — who had mild dementia — may have been asleep, possibly just waking up, when he was killed, Ellgard said.

There was no forced entry, Ellgard said, adding that Pang came home to find the back door of the home open.

The house had been somewhat ransacked, and a number of items were missing, including jewelry, a brown wooden jewelry box, a black Asus computer and an LG cellphone.

Also missing, Ellgard said, were Chinese coins, brass pieces that have oxidized to green.

Asked why someone would kill Roth if he was asleep, Ellgard said he has wondered that, too.

“Maybe he was waking, potentially catching whoever was coming in, taking property,” the police detective said.

Ellgard also revealed Wednesday that four days after the slaying, someone found a purse belonging to Roth’s wife dumped in an alley on North Ditmar off Surfrider, less than a quarter-mile from Roth’s residence.

Items scattered outside the purse included a photo of Roth. The person who found the bag — an extra purse, not the one Pang was using when Roth was killed — recognized Roth’s photo and called police, Ellgard said.

Roth’s wife was the last known person to see him alive, about 1 p.m. on Aug. 13. She found him dead when she came home from her overnight job at a nursing home.

Standing in front of the Tremont home, Roth’s wife teared up as she spoke about the “very kind” man she had married 10 years ago. She wore a button with Roth’s college photo.

Pang said they met in China in 2003, when she had been asked to translate for Roth during a visit to the electronics factory where she worked. Roth, she said, had been an electrical engineer.

She taught him some Chinese, she said. He would say “I love you” to her in two languages.

“He’s a very good man,” Pang said.

Roth was well known in the neighborhood, and a regular at a tavern not far from his home. Police do not think he was at the tavern on Aug. 13, the day he was last seen.

San Diego Crime Stoppers announced last month a reward of up to $1,000 for information that leads to an arrest in Roth’s slaying.

His wife has added $5,000 to the reward.

Anyone with information about identity or whereabouts of the killer is asked to contact Oceanside police Detective Erik Ellgard at (760) 435-4748. Anonymous tips can be left with Crime Stoppers by calling (888) 580-8477. Go to sdcrimestoppers.org to learn how to send anonymous web and mobile app tips.

teri.figueroa@sduniontribune.com

(760) 529-4945

Twitter: @TeriFigueroaUT


UPDATES:

5:20 p.m.: This story was updated with additional details. It was originally published at 11:30 a.m.

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