Tragedy compounded tragedy compounded tragedy in Minnesota last week when a woman allegedly killed her three children and then herself after her husband killed himself earlier that same day.
At about 10:30 a.m. local time Friday morning, the Maplewood Police Department said police received a call from Molly Cheng, 23, who claimed that her husband, Yee Lee, 27, had shot himself. Authorities arranged for social workers to go to the home to help the family, but soon afterward, a relative called 911 to say that Cheng might harm herself or her children.
The Ramsey County sheriff’s office then instigated a statewide manhunt for Cheng and the children, Quadrillion T. Lee, 4; Phoenix Lee, 5; and Estella Zoo Siab Lee, 3. Police were able to track Cheng’s cell phone to Vadnais-Sucker Lake Park, where they found Cheng’s abandoned car and several pairs of children’s shoes.
Dive teams, fire crews, and cadaver dogs scoured the lake for Cheng and the children. They recovered the body of Quadrillion at about 7:30 p.m. that evening. Emergency medical professionals attempted to revive the boy, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.
The body of his brother, Phoenix, surfaced shortly after midnight. Authorities were able to recover the remains of Molly and her daughter, Estelle, between 10:40 and 11:00 a.m. the following morning.
“There is nothing more tragic than the loss of young children, all of which were apparently under the age of five,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher told reporters on Friday.
“I’ve been in this 32 years and this is one of the most difficult [cases],” commander Eric Brandt added.
The medical examiner ruled the deaths of Yee Lee and Molly Cheng as suicides. While all three children died by drowning, the ME determined that the two youngest children had also been smothered.
Cheng, a tattoo artist, her husband, and their three children were among the 66,000 members of the Hmong community who live on the outskirts of St. Paul. Twenty years ago, the community formed the Hmong 18 Council of Minnesota after another Hmong mother killed her children, and many in the community are now devastated by this second instance.
Yee’s sister, who refers to her brother as Kos, posted a heartbreaking message after she learned of her brother’s suicide: “Forever goodbye my nicest brother. Why are you making me so mad and sad at the same moment? I’m so sorry that I’m 20 minutes late and cannot help you. I drive so fast to help you and to stop you but I still failed. I’m sorry that I failed you in this life and was late to help you. Only if I was faster then you will be alive.”