Fact Check

Cecilia Zhang

Is nine-year-old Cecilia Zhang missing from her Toronto home?

Published Nov 10, 2003

Claim:   Nine-year-old Cecilia Zhang is missing from her Toronto home.

Status:   Outdated.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2003]


The Toronto Police Service is requesting the assistance of the public and media in regards to locating a missing 9-year old girl from the area of Don Mills Road and Finch Avenue East.

An amber alert has been issued in regards to the young girl's disappearance from her residence.

The missing girl has been identified as Dong-Yue (Cecilia) ZHANG a 9-year old grade 4 student at Seneca Hill Public School. Her parents last saw the child when she went to bed on Sunday night (October 19th, 2003). Her disappearance was not noticed until Monday morning shortly before 8:30 A.M. She is described as; female, Asian, 9 years of age, 4'11", 70lbs, thin build, shoulder length black hair with blond highlights, brown eyes, wearing unknown clothing.

Anyone with Information is asked to contact 33 Division at (416) 808-3300 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477)

On a more personal note:

ATTENTION: Please everyone, this only takes a few minutes to forward to everyone you can think of who can also send this on. The more people who can hear her name and see her picture, the more likely that is it for this girl to be found safely. How would we feel if this was our child? I can't even imagine what her parents are going through right now. Thanks for taking the time to care...

Origins:   Sadly, this was no hoax — the child described in the e-mail quoted above and in a number of similar alerts was all too real, as were the circumstances of her disappearance. On the morning of 20 October 2003, nine-year-old Cecilia Zhang was discovered


missing from her family home in North York, a satellite of Toronto. She had been last seen at 10 p.m. the previous evening. Police believed she had been abducted during the night, and the theory of the crime had the kidnappers entering the house through the window of her second floor bedroom. (Its screen was broken.)

Two phone calls were made from different pay phones in Brampton (a nearby town) to the Zhang home just before Cecilia's parents realized their daughter was gone. In each instance, the caller said nothing when the phone was answered. No ransom demand was received, and no contact was made by the abductors either with the family or the police.

A province-wide Amber Alert was issued on the day Cecilia was taken. It sent a description of the girl across Ontario and activated highway signs alerting motorists about the abduction. The alert was canceled a day later.

As part of its 1 November 2003 episode, America's Most Wanted ran a segment on the kidnapping of Cecilia Zhang. Thanks to the show, one day later thirteen fresh tips were turned over to the Toronto police working the


Two rewards totaling $85,000 were being offered. Numerous hotlines had been set up in English and in Chinese dialects. More than 1700 posters and flyers bearing photos of the missing girl were posted in bus and subway stations. Yet little new information came in as time went by, and the older leads were exhausted. As of 13 November 2003, police confirmed that they still had no suspects in the case.

There was hope the child was taken by those looking to strike it rich. Kidnapping for profit is not unheard of within the Chinese community — though not common by any means, such abductions occur more often than they do within the general population. Had she been such a hostage, there would have been greater reason to hope she would eventually be returned unharmed.

But that was not to be.

Two days before what would have been Cecilia Zhang's tenth birthday, police in Toronto reported that she had been found. On 28 March 2004, authorities confirmed as hers the remains discovered in a Mississauga park by the Credit River the previous day.

On 21 July 2004, Min Chen, a 21-year-old Chinese national in Canada on a student visa, was arrested in connection with the case and the next day charged with first-degree murder for the death of the fourth-grader. It appears he knew the child, having been introduced to her during visits to a classmate who at one time rented a room from the Zhangs. Chen pled guilty to second-degree murder in May 2006 and was sentenced to life in prison.

Last updated:   2 December 2010


  Sources Sources:

    Campbell, Colin.   "Canada: No Suspects in Girl's Disappearance."

    The New York Times.   13 November 2003   (p. A9).

    Robertson, Lloyd.   "Toronto Girl Abducted From Her Home in the Middle of the Night."

    CTV News.   20 October 2003.

    Robertson, Lloyd.   "'America's Most Wanted' Airs the Cecilia Zhang Story."

    CTV News.   30 October 2003.

    Woods, Allan.   "Crime Show Adds Tips in Search for Cecilia."

    National Post.   3 November 2003   (p. A12).

    Woods, Allan.   "Phone Sites Suggest Lead in Cecilia Case."

    National Post.   29 October 2003   (p. A15).

    Canadian Press.   "Police Find Remains of Cecilia Zhang."

    28 March 2004.

    United Press International.   "Reward Jumps for Missing Girl's Return."

    31 October 2003.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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