Parents of girl found dead in restaurant plead not guilty to murder, other charges

source: WOIO
source: WOIO

CANTON, OH (WOIO) - A Stark County couple appeared in court Wednesday, accused of killing their own daughter.

The body of their 5-year-old daughter, Ashley Zhao, was found hidden in the family's restaurant. Both of her parents were arrested and charged with murder.

Mingming Chen and Liang Zhao marched into Stark County Common Pleas Court in angle chains and handcuffs Wednesday. Their pretrial hearing was held so they could answer to a six-count indictment -- each -- including murder, child endangering, tampering with evidence, obstructing justice, and gross abuse of a corpse.

The following is part of the 911 call made by the father when he reported his daughter missing: "After we got busy and started cleaning up and then we opened the door and she's not here."

Stark County prosecutors now believe that was a lie. That's why they had them back in court for a second time is less than a week, being arraigned in connection with Ashley's murder.

Ashley's body was found inside the family restaurant after a massive search for her outside in a wooded area. Police say her mother killed her, and that her father helped hide her body.

Judge Chryssa Hartnett made sure each understood the charges against them.

Liang Zhao speaks fluent English. He was brought to America as a child, and he's an U.S. citizen.

His wife, Mingming, is not. If she is convicted of murdering her daughter, she can be deported and denied re-entry, plus she could spend the rest of her life behind bars.

Liang Zhao could also get life in prison.

Each of them is fighting for their freedom, and say they are prepared to enter a plea of not guilty to all of the counts. Their attorneys will meet in the judge's chambers in mid-April to discuss how to move the case to the next level.

Copyright 2017 WOIO. All rights reserved.