An Ohio father pleaded guilty this week to charges related to the January death of his 5-year-old daughter, whose body was found hidden in the family’s Chinese restaurant one day after her parents reported her missing.
Liang Zhao pleaded guilty on Monday in Stark County, Ohio, to gross abuse of a corpse, obstructing justice, tampering with evidence and two counts of endangering children, the prosecutor’s office confirms to PEOPLE.
A murder charge against Zhao was dropped.
The victim’s mother, MingMing Chen — who authorities allege hit her daughter, Ashley Zhao, causing the fatal injuries before the parents concealed the body — is scheduled to be tried on Oct. 16 on identical charges, in addition to murder.
Chen pleaded not guilt, and her lawyer has reportedly declined to comment.
Zhao agreed to testify against his wife under a plea deal, and he will be sentenced after her trial has concluded, according to the prosecutor’s office. As part of the plea agreement, he will be sentenced to 12 years in prison, reports the Akron Beacon Journal.
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Ashley’s mother and father were charged after authorities in North Canton, Ohio, found her “deceased and concealed” inside Ang’s Asian Cuisine restaurant, according to police records.
The girl’s parents had contacted police about 9 o’clock on a Monday night and said they believed their daughter had “wandered out a back door” of the restaurant several hours earlier.
The report triggered a statewide alert for Ashley, but a later investigation revealed that she was already dead by the time the call was placed.
Around 9:15 a.m. that Monday, Jan. 9, Chen allegedly “did strike her daughter … several times with her right fist,” according to booking records at the Stark County Jail, where the parents were initially held.
“The victim suffered injuries to her body which caused her death,” those records stated.
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Ashley’s father “found the victim had her head struck on the floor twice,” allegedly by her mother, then noticed “green fluid coming from her mouth,” according to the records.
Zhao took Ashley to the bathroom and washed the fluid from her face, “then laid her on the floor and noticed she had stopped breathing.”
He attempted CPR “with negative results.”
Ashley’s body was discovered by police at the restaurant the next day, after her parents reported her missing. Authorities have not specified how or where her remains were found, other than to reveal her body was “concealed.”