Thursday, January 21, 2016
Trio accused in Rowland Heights kidnapping, torture, assault case
ROWLAND HEIGHTS >> Three 18-year-old Chinese “parachute kids” face charges of kidnapping, torture and assault after allegedly beating two other Chinese teens, stripping one of them naked, burning her nipples with cigarettes, cutting her hair and snapping pictures of the violent attack.
The beatings, which took place in late March, has since raised concerns about teens living here unsupervised.
Seven other Chinese teens suspected in the attacks have fled the country and the whereabouts of one juvenile suspect is unknown, according to Detective Joseph Sanchez of the sheriff’s Walnut/Diamond Bar station.
Yunyao “Helen” Zhai, Xinlei “John” Zhang and Yuhan, “Coco” Yang are scheduled to appear in Pomona Superior Court on Monday for a pre-trial hearing.
They remain in custody in lieu of $3 million bails each.
Two juveniles also were arrested for their roles in the attacks. A parent of one of them is being investigated for allegedly attempting to get one of the victims to change her story.
Prosecutors say the assault of 18-year-old Yiran “Camellia” Liu started outside an ice cream shop on the night of March 30 then moved to Rowland Heights Park.
An unpaid dinner bill and a dispute over a boy allegedly fueled the attack, according to the detective and defense attorneys.
Liu met a girl outside Honeymee ice cream shop on Colima Road to talk about the dinner bill. But the girl she met wasn’t alone. Several others later showed up, including Zhai, Zhang and Yang.
During the beating, Yang allegedly asked if Liu could just get the hell out of Los Angeles.
“Then she said, ‘No, you know, you shouldn’t — you should not be leaving Los Angeles because if you do, then it will be no fun for us. We can’t hit you anymore,” Liu testified in court.
The suspects allegedly took Liu’s cellphone and car keys, ordered her to kneel and apologize and told her to wipe cigarette butts and ice cream on the ground.
Liu testified in last month’s preliminary hearing that the suspects then drove her in her own car to Rowland Heights Park on Banida Avenue — in order to find more space and no cameras — and allegedly beat her for hours.
“They slapped her over 100 times, kicked her, cut her hair, made her get naked, burned her with cigarettes,” Deputy District Attorney Elizabeth Padilla said.
Liu said her attackers burned her nipples, hip and chest with cigarettes. They also cut her hair and ordered her to eat it. After the beating, Liu said Zhai asked her to give three of the girls a ride. She did, out of fear.
Some of the suspects downplayed the beatings, Sanchez said.
“It was voiced to me: ‘What’s the big deal? It happens in China all the time,’” he said.
Many of the teens involved are parachute kids, a term applied to youngsters sent to the United States by their parents to get an education. Many live with host families, but sometimes with limited supervision.
“The parents are all well-meaning. They send the children here for an American education,” said Yang’s attorney Rayford Fountain.
He said part of the problem is that the children are not supervised while here.
Several of the students involved attend Oxford School, a private school in Rowland Heights, according to court documents, an investigator and defense attorneys.
Oxford school officials wouldn’t confirm if the victims and the five suspects charged are students.
“We have a zero tolerance for bullying and bad behavior which is why we expelled a student two years ago for her behavior. She has recently been in the news for an incident she was involved in during April. She is not our student and as we mentioned above, we expelled her from our school two years ago,” according to a statement from Oxford School.
Zhai, Zhang also are suspects in the March 27 beating of a 16-year-old girl at a shopping center on Fullerton Road in Rowland Heights. For that attack — allegedly sparked because one of the suspects felt disrespected — they were charged with kidnapping and assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury.
The two suspects who ended up in Juvenile Court have admitted to their roles.
Greg Risling, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, said a 16-year-old girl charged for the March 27 attack and a 17-year-old boy charged for both beatings were sentenced to juvenile camp.
Risling said the girl admitted on May 14 to one count of assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury and was sentenced the same day. He said the boy, who turned 18 in April, admitted to two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and was sentenced June 25. A sheriff’s investigator said both received nine months in juvenile camp.
Sanchez said the father of one of the juveniles showed up at the victim’s school on April 15 and was arrested on suspicion of trying to dissuade a witness. The man posted a $100,000 bond and was released. No word yet if he’s already been charged.