CANTON, Ohio — Police have charged the parents of a missing 5-year-old Ohio girl after the child’s body was found in the family’s restaurant.
Jackson Township Police say the body of Ashley Zhao was found hidden at Ang’s Asian Cuisine in North Canton on Tuesday.
Zhao’s mother, Mingming Chen, has been charged with murder. Liang Zhao, the girl’s father, was charged with complicity to murder and complicity to commit felonious assault.
WEWS reported that the couple initially reported that Zhao went missing after taking a nap at the back of the restaurant on Monday evening. The case triggered a statewide alert for the missing girl, but police say Chen struck the child several times with her fist on Monday morning and the injuries she sustained resulted in her death.
Court records don’t list attorney information for Chen and Zhao.
Douglas Panzarello works across the street and said he goes to Ang’s Chinese Cuisine all the time. He told WEWS that Ashley Zhao was very social for such a little girl.
“A lot of 5-year-olds are shy. She’s very vocal, she’s not afraid to talk to you,” he said.
Marty Shomali, another regular customer, agreed.
“She’s the sweetest little thing! I loved her so much. Every time I picked up food she was behind the counter and would talk to me,” Shomali told WEWS.
The death is being investigated by the Jackson Township Police Department, the FBI and Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation in cooperation with the Stark County Coroner’s Office.