Ashley Zhao's murder remains a mystery 2 months after body found

Ashley Zhao's murder remains a mystery 2 months after body found
Chen (left) and Zhao (right). (Source: Police)
Ashley Zhao (Source: Police)
Ashley Zhao (Source: Police)

NORTH CANTON, OH (WOIO) - It's been two months since the body of 5-year-old Ashley Zhao was found dead and her body was hidden inside her parent's Asian cuisine restaurant.

On Sunday, Jan. 9, Zhao's mother Mingming Chen and father Liang Zhao called 9-1-1 to report their daughter missing. Both parents had told the Jackson Township Police Department that they believed she'd possibly walked out the back door at the restaurant, Ang's Asian Cuisine located on Portage Avenue. Police with assisting law enforcement agencies launched a massive search, with wicked weather elements throughout the night.

On Jan. 10, the parents gave information on the location of Ashley's body and she was found dead, concealed inside the restaurant. Both parents were arrested, charged and booked into the Stark County jail where they remain today.

Two months have now passed and both parents have been indicted in their daughter's death.

What actually happened to Ashley remains a mystery. Where was she killed and how was she concealed inside the family's restaurant? Where was Zhao's body found and what had the parents allegedly done to her?

Cleveland 19's investigative team went looking for answers the day after her body was found, specifically requesting the preliminary autopsy report from the Stark County Coroner's Office. The public records are to be made available to journalists, per Ohio Revised Code, for inspection upon request. The Stark County Coroner's Office denied having a preliminary autopsy report and stated that even if they did, it would not be released to the media because it was part of a homicide investigation.

Cleveland 19 called upon the Stark County Prosecutor's Office to help with the release the public record and was told by a prosecutor "I want to try the case in the county I sleep" releasing such records to the media for public consumption would make it "hard to seat a jury."

Zhao's body was flown back to New York for funeral services and her 7-year-old sister remains in the custody of Stark County Children and Family Services.

It's been two months since little Ashley Zhao's death and the events leading up to the discovery of her body remain a mystery with information purposely withheld from the media and the public during the homicide investigation.

Mingming Chen and Liang Zhao will be arraigned on charges on Wednesday, March 15 at 2 p.m. in the Stark County Court of Common Pleas.

Previous Coverage

Timeline of events during the search for Ashley Zhao

Mom charged with murder not a U.S. citizen; Victim's sister in protective custody

'I can't find my daughter' father told 911 dispatcher before girl found dead in restaurant

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