Teens reach plea deal in "parachute kids" torture case

Chinese students will serve prison time for attack on classmate.

An update on this disturbing case out of the San Gabriel Valley... Three students -- so-called "parachute kids" who live and attend school in Southern California while their parents remain in China -- will serve prison time under a plea deal for kidnapping and assaulting a classmate in Rowland Heights last year.

3 teens from China will go to prison for a San Gabriel Valley attack on a classmate

Yunyao "Helen" Zhai, Yuhan "Coco" Yang and Xinlei "John" Zhang, all now 19 years old, were charged with the torture, kidnapping and assault of fellow high school student Yiran "Camellia" Liu last March.

The three defendants were part of a group of teens who forced Liu to get on her hands and knees to wipe cigarette butts and ice cream smears from the floor of an ice cream parlor. She was then taken to a local park, stripped naked, kicked, slapped and burned with cigarettes. They also cut her hair and made her eat it.

The March 30 attack on Liu involved a group and allegedly stemmed from an unpaid dinner bill and a dispute over a boy, according to a sheriff’s investigator.

Liu testified at the June preliminary hearing that she met a girl outside Honeymee ice cream shop on Colima Road in Rowland Heights to talk about the dinner bill. But the girl she met wasn’t alone. Several others later showed up, including Zhai, Zhang and Yang.

She said she was ordered to kneel and apologize. Her assailants told her to wipe cigarette butts and ice cream on the ground. They drove Liu in her own car to Rowland Heights Park on Banida Avenue and beat her for hours.

Attorneys for Zhai and Yang previously acknowledged that their clients participated in the attack. Zhang's lawyer argued in court that his client was only a bystander.

The attack on Yiran "Camellia" Liu occurred near this gazebo in Rowland Heights Park.

Under the plea agreement, the defendants will plead no contest to charges of kidnapping and assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury. Yang and Zhai also admitted a special allegation that they personally inflicted great bodily injury during the commission of the crime.

Zhai will be sentenced to 13 years in prison, Yang will be sentenced to ten and Zhang will be sentenced to six. Because the teens had no prior criminal history, the District Attorney's office agreed to drop the torture charge, which carries a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole.

The case drew international headlines and raised concerns about the supervision of parachute kids, who number in the thousands and growing in San Gabriel Valley, mostly in Arcadia, San Marino, Rowland Heights, Temple City and Walnut. Clearly, this is an extreme example of what can go really, really, really wrong.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for February 17.

More here: Trio faces sentencing in Rowland Heights torture case


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