Murder of Cecilia Zhang

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For other uses, see Min Chen.

Cecilia Zhang (also known as Dong-Yue Zhang (Simplified Chinese: 張東嶽, Hanyu Pinyin: Zhāng Dōngyuè; March 30, 1994 – October 20, 2003) was a 9 year old child from Toronto, Ontario who went missing on October 20, 2003.[1] After being missing for months her body was discovered by the Credit River on March 27, 2004. Chinese citizen Min Chen, who was in Canada on a visa, was arrested for the crime. He pleaded guilty to 2nd degree murder May 9, 2006.[1] Chen confessed that he was kidnapping for ransom, and that she had died accidentally.


Zhang was 9 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 children program.[1] Her parents were described as not letting her play in 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 has lived in Canada on a visa since 2001.

At the time of Chen's kidnapping of Cecilia Zhang, Chen had already stopped his English studies at Seneca College Newnham Campus located very close to Cecilia's home in North York, Ontario. Chen also did not complete his Grade 12-level courses at a local private academy. Chen, whose father is an airline executive and whose mother is a Shanghai police officer, had been receiving money from his parents back in China.[3] 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 visa student who was broke, he desperately needed $25,000 to enter into a marriage of convenience as a means of obtaining the status of 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 with a chance of parole after 15 years.

During sentencing in May 2006, 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]

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, which is 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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