Albert J. Marro / Staff file photo
Jimmy Pak sits on the patio of his North Street Extension home in Rutland in 2006. The former Rutland businessman is facing two counts of murder in the shooting deaths of two people in Maine.
Longtime friends and business associates of Jimmy Pak, a well-known gardener and mason who moved from Rutland six years ago, expressed shock Sunday over the Korean man’s arrest for allegedly murdering a teenage couple who rented an apartment in his Biddeford, Maine, home.
Pak was arrested Saturday night after a reported landlord-tenant dispute over parking turned deadly, according to the Portland Press Herald. Police gave his age as 74, although Pak had previously said he was born in March 1944, which would make him 68 years old.
That newspaper reported Sunday that police in the coastal community had been called to Pak’s two-unit home early Saturday evening for a reported dispute over cars being parked in the driveway during Saturday’s snowstorm.
Maine State Police Sgt. Mark Holmquist told the Press Herald on Sunday that Biddeford Police talked to the people involved in the dispute and left after everyone involved said they no longer felt threatened.
Three minutes after police left, they were called back for a report of shots fired in the house.
They found Derrick Thompson, 19, and his girlfriend Alivia Welch, 18, unresponsive in the home. The couple were later pronounced dead.
Thompson’s mother, 44-year-old Susan Johnson, was treated for gunshot wounds and was listed in stable condition Sunday afternoon at Maine Medical Center. Johnson’s 7-year-old son, Brayden, who was in the home at the time of the shooting, was uninjured.
Pak surrendered to Maine State Police in his driveway at about 10 p.m. after three hours of negotiations.
He was charged with two counts of murder and is being held at the York County Jail pending his arraignment either today or Wednesday, the Press Herald said.
Those who remember Pak from his decades spent in Rutland as a prominent businessman and artisan said they were dismayed to hear about the charges against him.
“He was a gentleman and a hard worker. I never saw that side of him,” said Myles “Skip” Pratico Jr. “That’s not the Jimmy I knew for 25 years. He was proud of how hard he worked and what he accomplished. That news is very shocking.”
Pratico’s father played an important part in Pak’s rise from a Korean War orphan, who came to Danby as a child with only scant knowledge of the English language, to a respected businessman who left Vermont with an extensive list of friends and associates he credited for making him a success.
Myles Pratico Sr. helped Pak learn some of the gardening and masonry skills that would help him to later start up his own business.
Skip Pratico, who owns his own landscaping business, said he worked occasionally with Pak after his father’s death. He described him as a man grateful for the opportunities he’d had.
“He always talked about the struggles he went through to get where he was,” Pratico said. “I never talked to any of my customers who ever had a fight with him over anything. I never heard a bad thing about him at all.”
Rutland developer Joseph Giancola said he, too, had never heard any complaints about Pak and was surprised to hear he owned a gun.
“He was always talking and always upbeat about some new venture,” said Giancola, who knew Pak as a landlord and who was involved in multiple real estate transactions with him. “As a businessman he had confrontations with people who didn’t pay him or if a job wasn’t going well. But he didn’t get violent. He had lawyers.”
Aside from his prominence as a businessman, Pak was well known for his life story which was featured in the Rutland Herald.
In 1951, when he was 6, he was separated from his parents and five siblings when the North Korean Army invaded his home in South Korea.
Wandering alone in an apocalyptic landscape, Pak said he happened upon some lost American solders. He helped them find their way to an air base and was rewarded for his kindness by a commander who took him under his wing.
After working odd jobs on the base, Pak said he joined the United Service Organization and performed with other Korean children with such luminaries as Bob Hope.
After the death of the commander who took him in, Pak said he came to Vermont where he overcame taunts and harassment during his early years in the states by learning English, completing school and going on to work at everything from dairy farming to a job at General Electric.
When not working, he learned everything he could about plants and masonry. That education eventually led to a business that employed more than 60 people.
In 1999, Pak and a longtime friend managed to track down two of his sisters and his mother who were still living in South Korea.
The Portland Press Herald contributed to this story.
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