ICE seeks custody of woman accused of killing her 5-year-old daughter

Ming Ming Chen in court at Thursday's custody hearing. (Source: WOIO)
Ming Ming Chen in court at Thursday's custody hearing. (Source: WOIO)
Published: Jan. 12, 2017 at 8:27 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 13, 2017 at 2:39 AM EST
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NORTH CANTON, OH (WOIO) - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says they've filed a detainer to take custody of Ming Ming Chen, the woman accused of killing her daughter and concealing her body in a family restaurant.

ICE would seek custody of Chen at the conclusion of her local charges in Stark County involving murder and felonious assault.

In 2009, Chen applied for asylum based on her religion, political opinion and membership in a social group that she suffered persecution by the Chinese government.

She testified her brother was arrested after she fled China but her asylum application didn't indicate the arrest of any family member. Chen also testified she was held in an education camp for a month but there were discrepancies if she was actually detained. Finally, Chen testified she owed money to somebody who smuggled her into the country. She didn't say if she was smuggled by her own free will or if she was forced into a smuggling ring.

Her request to seek asylum in the United States was denied and Chen faced deportation in 2012.

Federal court records suggest she was living in the United States illegally.

Chen has two children with U.S. citizen and North Canton resident Liang Zhao. It's unknown if the two were married, but they are both under arrest for the murder of the youngest daughter Ashley Zhao, 5.

Aleksandar Cuic is an immigration attorney and a partner with Robert Brown Immigration Law in Cleveland. We asked him to look over the federal court documents.

"It's possible she could be a fugitive from ICE, they didn't know where she was, or it's possible her country was unwilling to issue her a travel document," Cuic said.

He says under ICE's system, Chen may not have been a priority to deport.

"ICE could have taken into a factor, saying, 'She's a mother of US citizen children, has no criminal history, this is not someone we need to remove at this point,'" Cuic said.

What happens next with Chen is in ICE's hands.

"If they can get a travel document, they can move her out if they choose to, or they can let the criminal process play out. So if she's sentenced to a term in prison, once she's done, ICE can put a hold on her and then remove her back," Cuic said.

Ashley Zhao was reported missing on Jan. 9 from the family's restaurant ANG's Asian Cuisine located on Portage Avenue in Jackson Township. After searching the wooded area and inside the restaurant for the child, who reportedly "wandered out the back door," her body was discovered concealed inside the restaurant.

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