Neighbors of a 5-year-old girl whose body was found in her parents’ restaurant gathered to mourn a child they remembered as always smiling and chatting away to patrons.
Ashley Zhao had been reported missing Monday, but police in Jackson Township, Ohio, announced they found the child’s body hidden in Ang's Asian Cuisine on Tuesday after a daylong search.
Ming Ming Chen, 29, allegedly struck the girl in the face several times, killing her, police said. She has been charged with murder. Her father, Liang Zhao, has been charged with complicity to commit to murderfor allegedly trying to cover up the crime, according to authorities.
The mother is not a naturalized U.S. citizen and may face deportation, authorities said. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement filed a detainer Thursday seeking custody of Chen, according to CBS affiliate WOIO-TV.
Her husband is an American citizen, according to CBS News.
Chen applied for asylum in the United States in 2009, asserting she had been persecuted by the Chinese government as a member of the Falun Gong, a group that is outlawed in the country, the station reported.
Federal judges have twice denied her petitions. She faced deportation in 2012 and may have been living in the U.S. illegally, the station said.
More than 50 people stood in the rain Wednesday night to pay tribute to the little girl at a vigil.
“Every time we were here she would always be chatting away. We were always greeted by a smile from her,” Jennifer Wells told the station.
Patron Victoria Watson said “I remember her running around the eatery and she would just draw pictures and take them over to people,” she said.
The parents appeared briefly Thursday at a hearing in which custody of their eldest daughter, 7-year-old Jojo, was turned over to child services workers, the station reported.
The parents are each being held on $5 million bail and have not entered pleas.