Murder of Cecilia Zhang

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Cecilia Zhang (also known as Dong-Yue Zhang; Chinese: 張東嶽; pinyin: Zhāng Dōngyuè; March 30, 1994 – October 20, 2003) was a nine-year-old child from Toronto, Ontario, Canada who went missing on October 20, 2003.[1] After being missing for six months, her body was discovered by the Credit River in Mississauga on March 27, 2004. Min Chen, a Chinese citizen from Shanghai who was in Canada on a visa, was arrested. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on May 9, 2006.[1] Chen confessed that he was kidnapping for ransom and her death was accidental.


Zhang was nine years old at the time of her abduction and murder. Her parents were Raymond Zhang and Sherry Xu. She was in grade 4 and enrolled at the Seneca Hill Public School and in a gifted program.[1] Her parents reportedly did not let her play alone without supervision on the front lawn of their house.[1]

Min Chen (simplified Chinese: 陈敏; traditional Chinese: 陳敏; pinyin: Chén Mǐn; born January 30, 1983[2]) is a Chinese native from Shanghai who had been living in Canada on a visa since 2001. His father is an airline executive and his mother is a police officer in Shanghai. They were giving him money at the time of the kidnapping.[3]

At the time of Zhang's kidnapping, Chen had stopped his studying English at Seneca College Newnham Campus, which is near Zhang's home in North York, Ontario. Chen also hadn't completed his grade 12 courses at a local private academy. According to police, Min Chen knew a female boarder who had lived at the Zhang home between September 2002 and March 2003 and had visited the Zhang home at least four times. Police said that Cecilia would have been comfortable in Chen's company under normal social circumstances.


According to an agreed statement of facts read out in a Brampton, Ontario courthouse, Chen was failing in his college studies and feared deportation back to his native China. Being a broke visa student, he desperately needed $25,000 to enter into a marriage of convenience as a means of becoming a permanent resident in Canada. Chen entered Zhang's home through a kitchen window and removed her from her home between 3:00 AM and 4:00 AM, leaving by a side door. When Cecilia tried to scream, Chen covered her face with a towel and held his hand over her mouth. Cecilia had stopped struggling by the time Chen placed her inside the trunk of his car. When Chen checked on Cecilia later on, he discovered that she had stopped breathing.[4] According to Chen, Cecilia's death was the result of Chen's poorly planned kidnapping and not deliberate.

The highly decomposed remains of Cecilia Zhang were subsequently found in a wooded area of Mississauga by the Credit River at Eglinton Avenue on Saturday, March 27, 2004.[1] Investigators were unable to determine the cause of death and were unable to determine if she had been sexually assaulted due to the advanced decomposition.[1]


Peel Regional Police had received a complaint about potential illegal fishing in the area on Sept. 18, 2003 near where the body was discovered. One of those stopped at the street check was Chen.[5][6] His fingerprints were also found on a window screen of Zhang's house.[6]

Min Chen was arrested and charged with 1st degree murder. Chen was represented by criminal lawyer John Rosen, who had previously defended killer and serial rapist Paul Bernardo.[7] Min Chen pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on May 9, 2006. He was sentenced to life imprisonment; under the "faint hope" provision then in effect, he was given the right to apply for parole after 15 years.

During sentencing, Justice Bruce Durno, who presided over the case, questioned Chen's explanation of the events. He stated: “This was not an accidental killing in the course of a bungled kidnapping”.[1][8]

Lacking an extradition treaty between the governments of Canada and the People’s Republic of China, human rights lawyers have noted that under Chinese law, when Chen completes his sentence and is deported back to China, he will likely face a second trial and sentence in China. Canadian law forbids this practice, known as double jeopardy, while Chinese law permits it if a Chinese resident commits a crime on foreign soil. Trial and punishment in the other country is seen as a mitigating factor, but does not preclude further imprisonment or execution in the People's Republic of China.[9]

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  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-08-16. Retrieved 2016-07-21.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ "From 'shy' boy to murderer" Archived 2009-02-06 at the Wayback Machine, Toronto Star, 11 May 2006.
  3. ^ "Cecilia may have been killed for money: reports Archived 2007-03-11 at the Wayback Machine," CTV
  4. ^ "Student pleads guilty to killing 9-year-old Cecilia Zhang Archived 2006-05-13 at the Wayback Machine," CBC
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-01-13. Retrieved 2017-09-05.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-07-11. Retrieved 2016-07-22.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "Chinese visa student admits to killing Cecilia Archived 2012-02-20 at the Wayback Machine," CTV via Sympatico/MSN
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-08-16. Retrieved 2016-07-21.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ "Is child killer here to stay?" Archived 2009-02-06 at the Wayback Machine, Toronto Star, 14 May 2006.

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