SCHILLER PARK (CBS) — The owner of a Schiller Park tavern was fatally beaten prior to a three-alarm fire that destroyed the business early Thursday, officials said.

George Markopoulos, 67, of 9639 W. Irving Park Rd., was found by firefighters at the Horseshoe Inn, according to Schiller Park police. He was the owner of the business and lived in an apartment behind it.

“When crews got there, there was heavy smoke coming out the front door of the building,’’ according to Schiller Park Fire Chief Tom Deegan, who said the tavern had closed at 2 a.m. The fire call came in about 3:45 a.m.

Firefighters were aware there was someone in the burning building, and crews found the body in the tavern area, near the foot of a stairway leading to the residential area where the victim lived, Deegan said.

An autopsy Friday determined Markopoulos died of head injuries from blunt trauma caused by an assault, and his death was ruled a homicide, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office. He was pronounced dead at 4:46 a.m. at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, according to the medical examiner’s office.

“He was a real nice guy,’’ Deegan said of Markopoulos. “He would help out with fund raisers, he worked with us a lot.’’

The chief said Markopoulos would also “always” lend a hand during their association picnic pig roasts.

“It’s a shame,’’ Deegan said of his death.

The homicide ruling confirms the suspicions of his former fiancée, Helen Rofus.

“It was just a feeling I had,” she told CBS 2’s Kristyn Hartman. “I hope they catch the person that did this, I really do. Because he didn’t deserve to die like this.”

Rofus said Markopoulos told her that someone had tried to break into his business.

Contributing: Sun-Times Media Wire

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