MEI MEIRhonda "Mei Mei" Lan Zhang (aka Chen) is a U.S. citizen. She was born at University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio on November 4, 1993. On a separate page you can see a copy of Mei Mei's birth certificate. Mei Mei resided in Cleveland her entire life until her kidnapping. By the time Mei Mei was one year old, she had been taken from her mentally ill biological mother, Sue Ping Chen, at least twice by the Cuyahoga County Department of Child and Family Services (the Agency). Mei Mei was last taken from Chen at the age of thirteen months in December 1994, just after the two had returned from a visit to Guangzhou (Canton), China. At that time, Mei Mei was found to be riddled with scabies which Chen would not even acknowledge, let alone treat. Chen and Mei Mei were homeless and had been kicked out of a Salvation Army shelter because of Chen's mistreatment of Mei Mei.
In March of 1995, after a few months in a temporary foster home, Mei Mei was placed in the home of Laura Hong and Tom Kovach. When Mei Mei arrived in their home, she was mute, and she had developed the habit of eating out of garbage cans. Although she was sixteen months old by that time, she could barely support herself on her own legs, and was otherwise delayed in her development, both physically and socially.
Sue Chen has not had legal custody of Mei Mei since December 15, 1994, shortly after the child's first birthday. Mei Mei was in the legal custody of the County for two and a half years -- from December 15, 1994 until June 26, 1997, when the Juvenile Court awarded legal custody to Laura Hong. Ms. Hong has had physical custody of Mei Mei since becoming her foster mother in March of 1995. Her right to physical custody of Mei Mei has continued without interruption through the date of her kidnapping and up to the present date.
On a separate page is a larger picture of Mei Mei which will print better from your browser. The pictures of Mei Mei by herself on this site were all taken shortly before her abduction.
SUE CHENThis is a recent picture of Sue Ping Chen, Mei Mei's biological mother. On a separate page is a larger version of this picture which will print better from your browser.
Sue Chen was born in China, and came to the United States sixteen years ago as a student. On September 23, 1993, forty-five days before Mei Mei's birth, Chen became a Permanent Resident of the United States. Until the abduction, she had returned to China only for sporadic visits. Though Chen is well-educated, she has been diagnosed with chronic schizophrenia, a debilitating psychological disorder that renders her delusional.
The head of the Cuyahoga County, Ohio Juvenile Court Diagnostic Clinic has found that, as a result of her schizophrenia, Chen is unfit to parent and a danger to Mei Mei, even while medicated. He recommended that Chen's remaining residual parental rights be permanently terminated. On September 25, 1996, the Juvenile Court Magistrate concluded that, in spite of almost two years of effort by the County to reunify Chen and Mei Mei, Chen was unable to provide Mei Mei with an adequate permanent home. The magistrate recommended that the County terminate Chen's parental rights.
In its June 26, 1997 order, the Juvenile Court did terminate her parental rights, and found by clear and convincing evidence that Sue Chen "suffers from a chronic mental illness that makes her unable to provide an adequate permanent home for the child." According to a May 18, 1996 story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Sue Chen is no longer taking any medication.
LAURA AND TOMLaura Hong is a Chinese American and a partner in the law firm of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey. She is also Secretary of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, co-founder and chair of the Asian American Bar Association of Ohio, and President of the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Federal Bar Association. Tom Kovach is also an attoney; he is an associate at Squire, Sanders & Dempsey. Both Hong and Kovach completed the training required of foster parents.
When Mei Mei came to their home on March 11, 1995, she was severely underdeveloped and delayed, but as a result of the loving and nurturing environment Hong and Kovach provided her, she was developing normally at the time of her abduction. She had developed a sense of security and independence. There is no question that Mei Mei perceives she has been taken from her true parents. Indeed, in its June 26, 1997 order awarding legal custody to Laura Hong, the Court found that Chen had caused Mei Mei "to suffer serious emotional harm by abducting her and precipitously removing her from her home and the foster parents to whom she had grown psychologically bonded." At the time of Mei Mei's kidnapping, Laura Hong and Tom Kovach had cared for her as foster parents for over nineteen months -- more than half of her life.
THE KIDNAPPINGShortly after September 25, 1996, Sue Chen learned that the Juvenile Court Magistrate had recommended termination of Chen's parental rights, and that the Court was almost certain to follow that recommendation. Nevertheless, Chen was permitted to have an unsupervised overnight visitation.
On October 15, 1996, shortly before her third birthday, Mei Mei was kidnapped by Sue Chen during the unsupervised overnight visit. United Airlines has confirmed that they left Cleveland, Ohio on October 15, 1996 bound for Hong Kong. The Hong Kong office of the FBI has confirmed that Chen entered Hong Kong on a Chinese passport and that Mei Mei entered Hong Kong on her U.S. passport. Mei Mei's passport number is 083550869; it expires March 3, 1999; it was issued March 4, 1994. Chen is hiding Mei Mei in Guangzhou and remains quite transient.
A warrant for Sue Chen was promptly issued by the Cleveland Police for first degree felony kidnapping; you can see the Ohio warrant on a separate page. The warrant number is 960023986. The Cleveland Police Department Case Number was 960 82615. You can also see portions of the Cleveland Police Department Report on the kidnapping on a separate page. Meanwhile, Laura Hong and Tom Kovach began a struggle for Mei Mei's return -- a struggle that still continues.
To the next page: After Mei Mei's Abduction
CONTACT INFORMATION: LAURA HONG TOM KOVACH LAURA HONG Home: (216) 932-8934 (216) 932-8934 4900 Key Tower Or: (216) 397-9596 (216) 397-9596 127 Public Square Work: (216) 479-8554 (216) 479-8714 Cleveland, Ohio 44114-1304 Page: (216) 948-7035 (216) 506-7528 Mobile: (216) 973-2935 firstname.lastname@example.org
The URL of this page is: http://ebni.com/meimei/before.html
If you have any advice, comments or bug reports about the
design of this page, please direct them to: email@example.com
This page was last revised on June 17, 1998.