Police allege mother struck girl found dead, "concealed" in family restaurant

Ashley Zhao

WOIO

MASSILLON, Ohio -- The parents of a 5-year-old girl reported missing in Ohio were jailed Wednesday on bonds of $5 million after her body was found hidden in the family’s restaurant.

Jackson Township police say Ashley Zhao was found dead Tuesday at Ang’s Asian Cuisine in North Canton after a daylong search. They didn’t release details about how the child was concealed.

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MingMing Chen, left, and Liang Zhao, right

WOIO

Her parents initially reported that Zhao went missing after taking a nap at the back of the restaurant on Monday evening. They told police they believed she had wandered out the back door, reports CBS affiliate WOIO.

But police now allege her mother struck Ashley in the face several times with her fist on Monday morning and the girl later died.

Her mother, 29-year-old Mingming Chen, is charged with murder and felonious assault. Her father, 34-year-old Liang Zhao, is charged with complicity to murder and complicity to commit felonious assault.

Chen and Zhao both appeared in Massillon Municipal Court Wednesday shackled and wearing orange jumpsuits. Neither showed emotion. A judge said the high bonds were set because they posed a flight risk.

When a judge asked him how long he had lived in the U.S., Zhao answered, “20-plus years.”

Information provided by the Stark County Sheriff’s Office indicate that Ashley’s father washed away green fluid coming from her mouth after the beating and unsuccessfully tried to revive her when she stopped breathing.

Police officers and investigators from the state crime laboratory were seen at what is believed to be the family’s apartment, The (Canton) Repository reported.

Vickie Fothergill, who manages a store next to the restaurant, told the newspaper she had seen Ashley and an older sister at the restaurant many times.