An Ohio woman has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges that she killed her 5-year-old daughter and hid the child’s body in her family’s restaurant.
MingMing Chen, 29, was charged with murder, tampering with evidence, obstructing justice, gross abuse of a corpse and two counts of endangering children in the death of her daughter, Ashley Zhao, the Stark County Clerk of Courts said.
Investigators found the little girl’s body hidden in their Chinese restaurant a day after her parents reported her missing.
Ashley’s mother and father contacted police on Jan. 10, saying they believed she “wandered out a back door” after taking a nap at the back of the family restaurant, Ang’s Asian Cuisine in North Canton, officials said.
But authorities said Ashley was already dead when she was reported missing.
On Monday, Jan. 9, at about 9:15 a.m., Chen allegedly hit her daughter several times, causing fatal injuries.
Chen and Ashley’s father, Liang Zhao, then allegedly hid her body in their business, where it was later found by police.
Zhao pleaded guilty in September to gross abuse of a corpse, obstructing justice, tampering with evidence and two counts of endangering children.
A murder charge against Zhao was dropped in exchange for his testimony against his wife.
He will be sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Chen entered her plea during a court hearing on Thursday.
Her attorney, Richard Drucker, declined to comment on the case, but spoke to InsideEdition.com about his client’s well-being.
Calling the circumstances “very tragic,” Drucker said: “It’s been a very difficult process for my client. She obviously has never been involved in the criminal justice system in China or in the United States; it’s been a difficult adjustment.
“She’s been separated — not only did she lose one daughter, she’s been separated from her other daughter — that’s been very difficult for her. And her husband, she’s been separated from her family.”
Chen is due back in court in December, and her trial is expected to begin in January.