Mother, father charged after 5-year-old found dead in family restaurant

Mother, father charged after 5-year-old found dead in family restaurant
Ashley Zhao (Source: Police)
Ashley Zhao (Source: Police)

NORTH CANTON, OH (WOIO) - The mother of a 5-year-old girl found dead in a North Canton/Jackson Township area restaurant Tuesday has been charged with murder.

Ming Ming Chen has been booked into Stark County Jail.

The father, Liang Zhao, has been charged with complicity in the case. He has also been booked into Stark County Jail.

Chen is not a U.S. citizen. Chen and Zhao have a 6-year-old child who is now in protective custody.

Police said the body of 5-year-old Ashley Zhao was found "concealed" in the family's Jackson Township restaurant Tuesday evening.

Authorities originally believed the girl had wandered out of the back door of Ang's Asian Cuisine, at 4924 Portage St. NW, around 5 p.m. When her mother went to wake her up 4 1/2 hours later, she was missing. Her parents reported her missing from that location.

Police say there was no evidence she'd been taken, though authorities issued a state-wide missing child advisory.

The girl had been missing for several hours when her great uncle Joey Lin showed up at the restaurant. He wanted to help police search the woods, but he was told they already cleared the area behind the restaurant.

Some residents also stopped by the Jackson Township location to see if they could help search.

Hours into the search, the Ohio BCI crime scene unit showed up and covered the restaurant's windows with brown paper. Around 5 p.m. Tuesday, 24 hours since the girl was last seen alive, her body was discovered.

BCI crime scene units pulled up to the Zhao family's apartment complex Tuesday evening.

"I've never spoke to them, I've just seen her in passing," said neighbor Treva Rohr. "It was sad, very very sad."

Special agents took pictures of the building and headed inside to the top floor of a unit on Sunset Strip Avenue in North Canton.

Police towed a car from the complex's parking lot Tuesday.

Stay with Cleveland 19 for updates. Reporters Sara Goldenberg, Jen Picciano, Damon Maloney, and Shelby Miller contributed to this report.

Download the Cleveland 19 News app

Copyright 2017 WOIO. All rights reserved.