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Most scams, such as sub-prime mortgages and email scams, victimize adults. But custody scams victimize children. When government fails to protect children it throws open the doors to private contractors—lawyers and clinicians—who enrich themselves at the expense of children. (More about this child and the mother who tried to protect her appears below.)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Are there ways we can correct systemic failures and avert tragedies?

How can our systems detect problems in advance to avoid tragedies like this? Click on the title above for the link to the original story below.

Suspect in San Jose murder-suicide lost custody of daughter three months ago

By Sean Webby and Lisa Fernandez
Mercury News
Posted: 07/08/2009 06:16:24 PM PDT
Updated: 07/08/2009 06:16:24 PM PDT

Three months ago Jian Ming Liang was convicted of child endangerment and had his 9-year-old daughter legally handed over to her mother in San Jose, according to San Jose police. This week Liang came from Southern California on an unexpected and tragic family visit — armed with a semi-automatic pistol.

Liang shot and killed his ex-girlfriend Ying He — and then himself — because he was upset over losing custody of their child, San Jose police said their preliminary investigation showed.

The child and He's husband escaped the carnage.

Local police have released little else about the murder-suicide or Jiang, 39.

"We don't know what his intentions were,'' said Lt. Rikki Goede, commander of the SJPD homicide unit. "We are still investigating."

But Arcadia police released a troubling story of how Liang had contacted school officials earlier this year to say that he "could no longer afford or wanted to care" for the girl.

The department launched a child neglect and abandonment investigation in March.

The girl was turned over to the Department of Children and Family Services and was later released to her mother.

Liang was arrested by Arcadia Police Department officers on March 23, 2009 when he attended a child custody hearing at Family Court in East Los Angeles. He was booked for felony child endangerment and abandonment.

Liang later plead no contest to a misdemeanor count of child abandonment and was sentenced to three years probation, police said. Liang's only criminal case in Santa Clara County shows a 2003 stalking charge that was dismissed. Online records show Liang had filed for bankruptcy in 2005.

San Jose police say they are not sure what Liang did before the Monday morning shooting.

Liang showed up at the Montecito Vista townhouse and confronted Shane Coffman, He's husband, in the garage area, police said. He fired a shot which grazed Coffman's earlobe.

Then, he went into the home and shot the girl's mother multiple times.

"It appears she was mortally wounded before the first officer arrived on the scene,'' Goede said.

Police later found Jiang's body. He had killed himself.

The dead mother's domestic problems with her old flame were dark shadows that rarely appeared on her sunny, public face.

Colleagues at the tight-knit respiratory therapy department at El Camino Hospital where Ying He worked, remembered her as "the sweetest person ever."

The 35-year-old San Jose woman went by her Chinese name "Ying" at work, and was known as "Brandi'' to others, including her husband's family. Shane Coffman, who survived the apparent murder-suicide, has declined to speak through relatives because the tragedy is simply too raw.

"It's such a horrible tragedy,'' said Ritu Joshi, who used to work with He, a night-shift therapist who regulated the breathing of patients in the intensive care unit. "She was awesome. She was kind to all her patients. She had sincere eyes and you just knew that she really cared. You would have never thought anything like this was going on in her life.''

Joshi and others didn't pry too much, but there were snippets of He's life that had dribbled out. Something about an ex-husband taking her daughter away from her. Then, her winning custody of her child a few months ago. She recently brought her daughter to work for the first time, colleagues said. She seemed so excited and proud to show her off .

About the mother and child pictured at the top

On February 21, 1992, Rhode Island Family Court's Chief Judge Jeremiah Jeremiah gave this two-year-old to the sole custody and possession of her father despite his history of domestic violence and failure to pay child support. The father, a police officer, brought false charges against his ex-wife, first saying she was a drug addict. (Twenty-two random tests proved she was not.) Then he had her arrested for bank fraud, then for filing a false report, then for sexual abuse, then for kidnapping. None of his charges stuck.

The child remained with her father and stepmother until 2003, when, at 14, she finally realized that her mother had not been a drug addict. The teenager persuaded Judge Stephen Capineri to let her return to her mother. There she began working on the painful issues of lifelong coercion and deception--a tangled knot of guilt and rage. Most painful has been her father’s continuing refusal to let her visit two dearly loved half-sisters, whom she has not seen since 2003.

She is one of countless children in Rhode Island subjected to severe emotional and physical trauma by Family Court when it helps abusive parents to maintain control over their families after divorce. When she turned 18 in 2007, she gave the Parenting Project permission to publish her picture on behalf of all children who have been held hostage by Rhode Island custody scams.

We are using this blog to provide links to stories that will help concerned people, including government officials, become aware of this form of child abuse and legal abuse. We must work together to improve the courts' ability to recognize the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in victims of domestic abuse who are trying to protect their children.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are looking for the story of the removal of "Molly and Sara," please visit

About the Author and the Cause

Parenting Project is a volunteer community service begun in 1996 at Mathewson Street United Methodist Church, Providence, RI, to focus on the needs of children at risk in Family Court custody cases. Our goal is to make Rhode Island's child protective system more effective, transparent, and accountable.

The Parenting Project coordinator, Anne Grant, a retired minister and former executive director of Rhode Island's largest shelter for battered women and their children, researches and writes about official actions that endanger children and the parents who try to protect them. She wrote a chapter on Rhode Island in Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Child Custody: Legal Strategies and Policy Issues, ed. Mo Therese Hannah, PhD, and Barry Goldstein, JD (Civic Research Institute, 2010).

Comments and corrections on anything written here may be sent in an email with no attachments to

Find out more about the crisis in custody courts here: provides forensic resources to end violence against women

about domestic violence in hague custody cases:

more about domestic violence in law enforcement: