According to investigators, Gary Brown, 64, and his roommate Cathy Lee, 48, were found stabbed and wrapped in blankets inside one of the bedrooms after firefighters were called.
"There was a big boom before the fire came up and the alarm came up," said Ahmed Jaafar, neighbor. "I got my family out of the building, got all of my neighbors out of the building."
Friends and relatives say Brown and Lee had shared a third floor apartment for little over a year. They met at Brown's work, where he gave computer classes to people looking to improve their job skills.
"Over 4,000 people a year sat in this computer lab and they looked forward to Gary teaching them. He had a unique way of teaching. He was a special person," said Charles Hardwick, Howard Area Employment Resource Center.
"It's horrible. We found out this morning and the whole office fell apart," said Antoine Day, victim's co-worker.
A father of three grown children, Brown was a retired attorney from Kankakee who moved into the city several years ago. Ex-wife Carol Szynal says she can't think why anyone would hurt him.
"He was an extremely gentle man. I don't remember him every even raising his voice in the 41 years I've known him," she told ABC7. "We are a very typical family and our lives will not be changed forever."
Police have no one in custody and say the homicide investigation is ongoing.