In 1979 Bich Ha and Huei Hann Pan moved from Vietnam to Canada to provide a better life for their family. The couple worked for a car manufacturing company, but had higher dreams for their two children Jennifer and Felix. They believed their children would have great opportunities in Canada and be more successful than either of them.
Jennifer, born 1986, was the perfect daughter, straight A student, played piano, figure skated among other extra-curricular activities and was a source of great pride for her parents. Her trophies and awards were displayed proudly in the family home. Her father’s dream was for her to study Pharmacology at the University of Toronto.
It was in 2010 when things started to change. The life the parents knew turned out to be a little different from reality. In fact, it was all a lie. Jennifer first started producing fake school reports, turning Bs and Cs into As, to appease her parents. At the end of high school, she didn’t actually graduate due to failing Calculus. She was originally offered a place at university, but due to not graduating, the conditional offer was withdrawn.
Attending university became a cover for living with her boyfriend, Daniel Wong – a relationship she was forbidden to have. Jennifer told her parents that she’d won a scholarship to and was receiving a loan to pay for the tuition. She acquired second-hand textbooks, stationery, and other supplies to help sell the illusion. Jennifer would tell stories about people in her class, exams, and lectures she was supposed to be having. When it came time to graduate, she told her parents there weren’t enough tickets to go around because it was an unusually large class so they wouldn’t be able to attend. It was around this time her father started to get suspicious. One of her lies was she volunteered at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, but she had no uniform or ID. Her father followed her to work one day, and began to unravel her lies.
What started out as forging school reports to keep her academically driven parents happy, became a much bigger lie. Jennifer’s upbringing had forced her to become an incredible liar, faking an entire personality to keep her overbearing parents happy. She’d fabricated an entire degree to allow her to live an independent life. Furthermore, Daniel was far from the ideal partner Jennifer’s parents may have hoped for her, he was a drug-dealer and known to the police.
Hann gave her three choices; move home and live under their control, stay living with Daniel but relinquish all finances and contact with her family or wait until her parents were dead to be with her boyfriend. It’s important to note, Jennifer was 25 at this point. She’d spent time living out of the family home whilst she was supposedly at university. She chose to move back into the family home, but with limited freedom – no laptop, only allowed to leave the house for piano lessons and no contact with Daniel. Felix, Jennifer’s brother, was away at university studying Mechanical Engineering during this time.
On 8th November, 911 received a call from Jennifer reporting three men had broken into the house, tied her up and that she’d heard gun shots. The police arrived and found Hann and Bich in the basement. Her mother had been fatally shot, and her father was in critical condition. Apart from being tied to an upstairs banister, Jennifer hadn’t been touched. It looked to be a robbery gone wrong; but police had their suspicions. It seemed unlikely that three gunmen would break in, shoot two people, and then leave one witness completely unharmed. The other issue was that the family cars, a Lexus and a Mercedes, were left along with money, jewellery, and electronics. Furthermore, if Jennifer had been tied up with her hands behind her back, how would she be able to make the phone call to the police?
Mr Pan was in a coma for a few weeks after the attack, and it seemed likely he might never regain consciousness. Miraculously though, he did and he remembered everything from the break in. What he told police about the attack was very different to Jennifer’s account. He remembered seeing Jennifer talking to one of the gunmen in a friendly manner. This coupled with the suspicions the police already had, made Jennifer a suspect in the case.
Confronted with her father’s statement, Jennifer broke down crying and said she would tell the truth about what happened. Jennifer claimed that she had organised the hit, but for herself. It was supposed to be a suicide by proxy because she’d been unable to do it herself, unable to bare living under her parent’s control any longer. But, before the event, she said she tried to call it off. The gunmen demanded to be paid the full amount anyway. When Jennifer was unable to pay them, they apparently came to the house and shot her parents instead of her.
Police questioned Daniel to find out his side of the story, but he knew nothing of the suicide by proxy and instead confirmed that Jennifer’s parents were the targets all along. He had also given Jennifer a burner phone, a phone police found to contain hundreds of texts between Jennifer and the gunmen discussing the plan. It was arranged for three men to break into the home, kill the parents and stage it to look like a home invasion for the price of $10,000 all so she could be with her boyfriend without the disappointment of her parents.
At trial Jennifer, Daniel, and two of the gunmen – David Mylvaganam and Lenford Crawford – were all found guilty of murder and sentenced to life without parole for 25 years. Eric Carty, the third gunman, was originally going to be tried at the same time as the other four defendants, but his lawyer became ill and his case was declared a mistrial. He had a separate trial at a later date and was given an 18 year sentence, eligible for parole after 9 years. He has since died in prison. Jennifer was also given a non-communication order which means absolutely no contact with any member of her family again.
At no point was this murder acceptable, however it could be described as inevitable that Jennifer would retaliate to this level of control from her parents. Her parents have been described as ‘tiger parents’ a term used for very strict, education driven parents who have complete control over their child’s life, hobbies, friends, and even career paths. It has been said that Hann and Bich were typical tiger parents, a lifestyle that caused Jennifer to begin lying at a young age in an attempt to live up to their standards. At age 25, Jennifer wasn’t even allowed to have a boyfriend. This kind of upbringing could have felt like tyranny to her. If only she had made the decision to walk away from the family, instead of organising their murders.
If Hann had succumbed to his injuries, we may never have known the truth. Maybe Jennifer would have got away with parenticide and lived a life free of consequences.