American formerly imprisoned in North Korea burns to death

Former US President Jimmy Carter helped free Aijalon Mahli Gomes from a North Korean prison. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

SAN DIEGO — Police in San Diego are investigating the mysterious death of a man who made international headlines eight years ago when former US President Jimmy Carter helped negotiate his release from North Korea.

Aijalon Mahli Gomes, 38, was found engulfed in flames Friday night in Mission Bay Park and pronounced dead at the scene, police said. A preliminary investigation suggests his death was accidental or a suicide.

Gomes had recently moved from Boston to the San Diego area. He was arrested in North Korea after illegally entering from China in 2009. North Korea sentenced him to eight years of hard labor and a fine of about $600,000 for illegally crossing its border with China and for an unspecified “hostile act.”

He was freed in 2010 after Carter helped negotiate his release.