Yu Sang Li traveled from her home in Stockton, Calif., to Washington on Friday intent on supporting her daughter in a time of grief.
The 59-year-old Li, who immigrated to the United States from China in 2006, carried gifts and cash for Xing M. Zhu, a relative of the women said Wednesday. Li believed Zhu’s husband had recently died in a car wreck, said the relative, who did not want her name published.
“She wanted to help her daughter,” the relative said.
Now Li’s family is grieving her death, allegedly at Zhu’s hands.
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Pierce County prosecutors on Wednesday charged Zhu, 35, with second-degree murder. They allege she beat her mother with a bar stool and then strangled her inside a house in the 12100 block of 168th Street East in the South Hill area.
A not-guilty plea was entered on Zhu’s behalf during an arraignment in Superior Court. Court Commissioner Patrick Oishi maintained Zhu’s bail at $1 million – an amount he set Monday during her preliminary court appearance.
Sheriff’s deputies arrested Zhu on Saturday after she called 911 several times to report someone had been killed at her home, charging documents state.
Investigators found Li’s body lying in the front doorway, the records show. It appeared she’d been beaten. An autopsy showed strangulation was the cause of death.
Zhu allegedly told deputies, “I did this,” the records show, and later told a detective, “I had to kill my mom.”
A motive remained unclear.
Zhu might have believed her parents intended to kill her husband, court records show, and “reported the alleged plot to several local law enforcement agencies.” The relative who spoke to The News Tribune said there was no such plot. She described Li as good-hearted and hard-working, with Zhu’s best interests at heart.
More recently, Zhu told relatives and at least one local law enforcement agency that her husband had died.
“Apparently, the relatives believed the story,” court records show.
Zhu’s husband is not dead. He attended her arraignment and tried unsuccessfully to pass her a note.
Deputy prosecutor Phil Sorensen said in court that investigators still are trying to unravel what happened.
Oishi ordered Zhu, who has four children between the ages of 1 and 9, to have no contact with her husband or any other witnesses until her case is resolved.