ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Tears and prayers at candlelight vigil for 3 kids, their parents at Vadnais Lake in Minnesota

Dozens of people gathered in Vadnais Heights to honor the memories of the three children, whose bodies were found in the lake, and their parents. The mood was somber as family, friends and community members, many of them crying or praying, approached a table of photos of the late family.

US-NEWS-TEARS-AND-PRAYERS-AT-CANDLELIGHT-1-SP.jpg
Friends and family comfort each other as they grieve in front of photos of the Lee-Cheng family at Vadnais-Sucker Lake Regional Park in Vadnais Heights, Minnesota, on Saturday July 9, 2022. Molly Cheng drowned her three children, Quadrillion Lee, 4; Phoenix Lee, 5; and Estella Lee, 3, then herself after she reported her husband Yee Lee killed himself.
John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press
We are part of The Trust Project.

VADNAIS HEIGHTS, Minn. -- At the shore of Vadnais Lake, where the abandoned shoes of three young children set off a frantic search just over a week ago, a memorial of toys and balloons stood Saturday.

Dozens of people gathered in Vadnais Heights to honor the memories of the three children, whose bodies were found in the lake, and their parents. The mood was somber as family, friends and community members, many of them crying or praying, approached a table of photos of the late family.

The candlelight vigil was organized by the Hmong 18 Council and the family members of the victims.

“When tragic events happen, community mourning and healing gathering play a key role in bringing the community together to mourn and support each other,” the Hmong 18 Council posted on social media.

Yee Lee, 27, died by suicide in the family’s Maplewood home on the morning of July 1, according to the Ramsey County medical examiner’s office.

ADVERTISEMENT

That afternoon, a relative of Molly Cheng — Lee’s wife — called 911 and reported the 23-year-old was going to kill her children and herself.

The medical examiner’s office determined that Estella Lee, 3, Quadrillion Lee, 4, and Phoenix Lee, 5, were drowned in Vadnais Lake and ruled their deaths as homicides. Cheng also drowned and her death was a suicide, according to the Ramsey County sheriff’s office.

Yee Lee’s father, Koua Lee, and Molly Cheng’s father, Chong Cheng, both spoke at the vigil through Hmong 18 councilwoman and interpreter Jasmine Lykhang. They expressed their deep grief and their gratitude for the support from the community.

Chong Cheng also said he wished the police did more to save Molly and his three grandchildren, and that they didn’t was “hurtful” and will stay with him for the rest of his life.

After Lee’s death, two social workers — including one who speaks Hmong — came to the home “to help the family through the incident,” said Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner on Friday.

Cheng wanted her children to stay with her.

“She was their mother, that was her legal right to do so,” Steiner said. “We had no legal right to hold Molly or her children. At that point in time, there were no statements made or no information that Molly was a danger to herself or her children.”

Various members of the Hmong 18 Council attended the vigil, including President Paul (Kong Patchay) Xiong. The council was established in hopes of providing the community sufficient social services after a distraught Hmong mother took the lives of her six children in 1998 in St. Paul.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Hmong 18 Council is meant to be a resource for community members so incidents like the one last week don’t happen, Lykhang said.

“I would like to see my community open up,” she said. “I think people are afraid to reach out for help because they fear judgment, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of and we don’t want to see this again, in our community or in any other community.”

The family is fundraising for the five funerals at gofundme.com/f/funeral-expenses-for-molly-cheng-yee-lee-kids.

For help

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached 24/7 at 800-273-TALK (8255). In Ramsey County, also 24/7, the adult mental health crisis line for help for people over 18 years old is at 651-266-7900 and the children’s mental health crisis line is available at 651-266-7878.

Mara H. Gottfried contributed to this report.

______________________________________________________

This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

Related Topics: SUICIDE PREVENTION
What to read next
DFL Gov. Tim Walz, House Speaker Melissa Hortman and incoming Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic sent a letter to the Democratic National Committee this week pledging to pass legislation to move the primary to an earlier date if national leadership picks the state.
A jury in 2017 acquitted Jeronimo Yanez of second-degree manslaughter and a firearms charge in the shooting death the previous year of Philando Castile, a St. Paul school cafeteria supervisor, along Larpenteur Avenue.
Margaret Oldenburg's specimens are helping researchers better understand the effects of climate change
The map will be unveiled Wednesday Nov. 30, at the Bois Forte Heritage Center and Cultural Museum