The indictment against MingMing Chen and Liang Zhao was released Tuesday.

CANTON  A county grand jury has indicted a Jackson Township couple on murder and other charges stemming from the death of their 5-year-old daughter who was falsely reported as missing in January.

The six-count indictment against Mingming Chen, 29, and Liang Zhao, 34, both of 7300 Sunset Strip Ave. NW, was released Tuesday by Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero's office.

Jackson Township police allege Chen punched her daughter, Ashley, several times in the head, and that when Zhao found the child on the floor, he tried to clean her up before unsuccessfully attempting CPR. Police say the couple concealed the body somewhere inside their restaurant, Ang's Asian Cuisine restaurant at 4924 Portage St. NW, before falsely reporting the girl as missing.

It prompted a large-scale search of the area on Jan. 9. Police later found the body inside the restaurant and charged the parents.

In addition to the murder charges, both parents face additional charges of endangering children (two counts), tampering with evidence, obstructing justice and gross abuse of a corpse.

If convicted of all charges, both defendants face roughly 30 years to life in prison, Ferrero said. Under state law and based on evidence in the case, the prosecutor said the death penalty does not apply.

"Anytime you have a child victim, everybody takes it very personally (as well as) the whole community, not just my office," he said Tuesday evening. "And we saw the outpouring (from the community when) the child was reported missing."

Added Ferrero, "It's something that ... strikes a nerve because it's a child."

Ferrero declined to discuss details of the investigation, including what led to the child's death and where the body was found inside the restaurant.

The indictment says that Chen and Zhao "either acting as the principal offender or aiding and abetting another, did abuse Ashley Zhao." Court records also say that Chen and Zhao caused the death of the child "as a proximate result of ... committing or attempting to commit endangering children."

The indictment says that Chen and Zhao treated a human corpse "in a way that would outrage reasonable community sensibilities."

The child was reported missing about 9:30 p.m. Jan. 9 from a back room at the restaurant. Investigators were told the child had gone to a back room to nap about 4:30 p.m. and, when Chen checked on her about 9 p.m., she was missing.

Joseph F. Gorman, an Akron attorney representing Zhao, and Richard H. Drucker, a Cleveland attorney representing Chen, could not be reached for comment late Tuesday afternoon.

Zhao and Chen remain jailed on a $5 million bond.

Reach Ed at 330-580-8315

and ed.balint@cantonrep.com

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