Source:The Toronto Star
Man charged in Cecilia's slaying
Min Chen, 21, appears in court after tip leads to arrest
A 21-year-old male visa student from China has been charged in connection with the murder of 9-year-old Cecilia Zhang.
Min Chen, who now lives in Scarborough, was arrested yesterday and charged with first-degree murder, Peel Police Noel Catney told a packed news conference today in Brampton..
Chen appeared in court this morning wearing a white cover-all with hood, similar to those worn by forensic investigators.
Police say a tip led to the arrest.
Cecilia was taken from her bed at Whitehorn Cres. the night of Oct. 19, sparking an international search.
The girl’s remains were discovered on March 27 on a treed slope near the Credit River in Mississauga. Cecilia, who would have turned 10 just two days later, had been missing for nearly five-and-a-half months since vanishing from her parent’s North York home.
Several weeks ago, residents living in the area of Winston Churchill Blvd. and Britannia Rd. area of Mississauga told the Star that they were questioned about Cecilia’s abduction and murder in a door-to-door canvass of the Churchill Meadows neighbourhood.
That area is located about midway between where Cecilia’s skeletal remains were found and a payphone near the Maple Lodge chicken plant where one of two mysterious phone calls were made to her family’s North York residence the morning of her abduction. Investigators have said that a hiker found her body while walking through the Credit River Valley system just south of Eglinton Ave. near Mississauga Rd.
The area is easily accessible from the rear of the parking lot behind the Church of the Croatian Martys and is extremely dark at night. Peel homicide investigators were called to the crime scene within minutes of the discovery of her remains just near the edge of the rear of the church parking lot. The well-travelled Culham Trail winds its way along the banks of the Credit River, but there is no path on the side where Zhang’s remains were found.
The Grade 4 student at Seneca Hill Public School was abducted from her North York home after she went to bed on the night of Oct. 19. That night, she had been sleeping in a guestroom, instead of her own bed, where her visiting grandfather slept.
Although investigators have revealed very little about their probe, lead investigator Frank Roselli told The Star within days of being named to head the task force that he believed the case was "solvable" and that a "number of persons of interest" were looked at as potential suspects.
After the task force was formed, police re-interviewed members of the Zhang household, including the former students who rented rooms before and at the time of Cecilia’s abduction.
As reported previously by The Star, the young child’s killers appeared to have up-to-date information about her sleeping arrangements the night of her abduction. There were five visa students in the two-storey home at 33 Whitehorn Cres. near Finch Ave. E. and Highway 404, when Cecilia went missing. The Zhangs supplemented their income by renting rooms primarily to Chinese visa students.
Two mysterious phone calls were made to Cecilia’s mother’s cellphone the morning she discovered that her 70-pound daughter was missing. The calls came from two pay phones, one outside of a Brampton Tim Hortons doughnut shop and Sunoco gas station at Airport Road near Highway 407, the other near Maple Lodge Farms on Winston Churchill Blvd.
Investigators later revealed that the caller or callers didn’t say anything during these two phone calls. Forensic investigators managed to lift several fingerprints from both phonebooths.
Cecilia’s parents told Toronto Police they had last seen their daughter when they put her to bed about 10 p.m. on Oct. 19. A province-wide Amber Alert was issued Oct. 20 and cancelled the following day.
Police believed the young girl had been abducted by one or possibly two kidnappers who entered through a second floor window of the bedroom she was sleeping in at the time. Police later revealed that the window had been jimmied open and the screen wrenched backwards.
But neither Sherry Xu nor her husband Raymond Zhang ever received a ransom demand for their daughter, whose mysterious disappearance was the subject of two segments on ’America’s Most Wanted’ television show, the last airing on June. 12, the first in early November, 2003.
Police have said that when Cecilia’s mother discovered her daughter wasn’t in their home, she went to her school where the principal urged her to contact authorities. She returned home and called 911 at 8:27 a.m.
Very few details of this troubling case have ever been revealed, especially since her remains were discovered and the formation of the elite task force based out of Peel.
Investigators have indicated the need for secrecy because they believed their case hinged on evidence and information that only the killer or killers of Cecilia would know.
One of the most puzzling questions surrounding their investigation is the significance, if any, of a summertime picture found on the Zhang’s website of their daughter posing by the banks of the Credit River.
That picture took on an eerie significance, considering how her remains were found in a different location, but in the same river valley. It’s clear that Cecilia and her family had visited the valley, which runs from Lake Ontario to Orangeville.
Police have also never revealed whether the Zhang family has any connection to the area, or if they have any friends or relatives living in the area, which includes a large Chinese population in an exclusive neighbourhood just north and west of where the young girl’s remains were discovered.
Cecilia was known to love to fish and the Credit River area is among the most popular within Greater Toronto for trout and salmon fishing. Zhang Weimin and Xu Wen, both in their 30s, and their then 4-year-old daughter, Dongyue, moved from China to Toronto in 1998 and soon took English names. Zhang Weimin picked Raymond, and Xu Wen chose Sherry. Dongyue became known as Cecilia, after a Simon and Garfunkel song.
Cecilia’s father studied chemistry in Nanjing, China, but after taking a computer course in Toronto found work as a programmer at Sun Life Financial. Cecilia’s mother Sherry ran a daycare/language school in a building on Finch Ave. E., though a website for her company, Canada Holonet Inc., indicated she also offered immigration advice for students.