Jennifer Pan is a Vietnamese-Canadian woman convicted of a 2010 kill-for-hire attack targeting both of her immigrant parents, in response to severe abusive “tiger parenting” by her parents into her mid-20s.
Early life and education
Jennifer Pan’s parents, Bich Ha and Huei Hann Pan, were Vietnamese-born immigrants to Canada. Hann was born and educated in Vietnam, moving to Canada in 1979 as a political refugee. Bich (pronounced “Bick”) also immigrated as a refugee. The couple were married in Toronto and lived in Scarborough. Their two children are Jennifer, born 1986, and Felix, born 1989. The Pans found work at Magna International, an auto parts manufacturer in Aurora, Ontario. Hann worked as a tool and die maker, while Bich made car parts. The couple persistently worked hard for their money to ensure that their children had the upbringing and opportunities they themselves had missed out on. Hann and Bich were thrifty and by 2004 were financially stable enough to purchase a “large” house with a two-car garage on a residential street in Markham, a town with a large Asian population. Bich drove a Lexus ES 300 and Hann drove a Mercedes-Benz. They had accumulated CAD$200,000 in savings.
Jennifer’s parents set many goals for their children and had extremely high expectations of them. Jennifer was made to take piano lessons at the age of four, as well as figure skating classes whereby she trained most days during the week. She had hopes of becoming an Olympic figure skating champion until she tore a ligament in her knee. Jennifer attended Mary Ward Catholic Secondary School, where she played the flute in the school band. According to her high school friend Karen K. Ho, Hann was seen as “the classic tiger dad,” and Bich was “his reluctant accomplice.” The Pans picked Jennifer up when classes ended each day and monitored her extracurricular activities very carefully. They never permitted her to date boys whilst attending high school, or to attend high school dances or proms out of fear that these activities would distract her from her academic commitments. Jennifer was not permitted to attend any parties while her parents believed that she was attending university. At the age of 22, “she had never gone to a club, been drunk, visited a friend’s cottage or gone on vacation without her family.” Jennifer and her friends reportedly regarded this upbringing as restricting and greatly oppressive.
Despite her parents’ high expectations and the fact that Jennifer had received good grades in lower school, throughout high school her grades were somewhat average (in the 70% range) except for music. Multiple times, she forged report cards using false templates to show her parents that she had received straight As when she had not. When Jennifer failed calculus class in her senior year of high school, Ryerson University rescinded her early admission. As she could not bear to be perceived as a failure, she began to lie to those she knew, including her parents, and pretended she was attending university. Instead, she sat in cafés, taught as a piano instructor and worked in a restaurant to earn money. In order to maintain the charade, Jennifer told her parents she had won scholarships, later falsely claiming that she had accepted an offer into the pharmacology program at the University of Toronto. She went to the extent of purchasing second-hand textbooks and watching videos related to pharmacology in order to create notebooks full of purported class notes that she could show her parents. Jennifer also requested permission from her parents to stay near the “campus” with a friend throughout the week when she was actually staying with her boyfriend Daniel Wong, a high school sweetheart whom her parents knew nothing about.
While pretending to complete her degree at the University of Toronto, Pan told her parents that she had started working as a volunteer at Toronto’s prestigious Hospital for Sick Children, known as SickKids. Hann and Bich soon became suspicious when they realized she did not have a hospital ID badge or uniform. On one occasion, Bich followed her daughter to “work” and quickly discovered her deception. In a state of shock, Hann wanted to throw Jennifer out of the house, but her mother persuaded him to allow her to stay. As she had not completed high school due to failing calculus, she eventually began working to finish high school completely and was later encouraged by her parents to apply to university. She was, however, forbidden to go anywhere except to her piano-teaching job or to contact Wong. However, the two spoke clandestinely during this period.
By the time that Jennifer was 24, Wong had grown weary of trying to pursue a relationship with her. As Jennifer was so daunted and restricted by her parents that she lived at home and only met him in secret, Wong began to date another young woman whom he soon fell in love with. Pan quickly invented a new story and told Wong that a man had entered her house, showing what appeared to be a police badge. She then told him that several men had rushed in and gang-raped her. After this, she insisted that a bullet was mailed to her, telling Wong that it was sent from his new girlfriend.
In spring 2010, Pan was in contact with Andrew Montemayor, a high school friend who, she claims, had boasted in their high school years about robbing people at knife point, an assertion denied by Montemayor. Montemayor introduced her to Ricardo Duncan, a “goth kid” to whom Pan gave $1,500 to kill her father in the parking lot at his workplace. Duncan says that she once gave him $200 for a night out, but that he returned it, and that he rebuffed her when she asked him to kill her parents.
Pan and Wong were back in contact at this time and, according to police, came up with a plan to hire a professional hit man for $10,000 to kill her parents, calculating that she would then inherit $500,000. They planned to move in together. Wong connected Pan with Lenford Crawford, a man he called Homeboy, and gave her a SIM card and an iPhone so that she could contact Crawford without using her usual cell phone.
On 8 November 2010, Pan unlocked the front door of the family home when she went to bed, then spoke by phone to Crawford’s friend, David Mylvaganam. Shortly afterwards, Crawford, Mylvaganam, and Eric Carty entered the home through the unlocked front door, all carrying guns. After demanding all the money in the house, and ransacking the main bedroom, they took Bich and Hann to the basement where they were shot multiple times; Bich was killed but Hann would survive his wounds. The three men then took all the cash that was in the house (including $2,000 from Pan) and left. Pan claimed that they tied her up, but that she managed to free her hands and dial 9-1-1.
Investigations quickly led prosecutors to treat Pan as the prime suspect in the crime. The trial of Pan and her accomplices began on 19 March 2014 in Newmarket and continued for ten months. All pleaded not guilty to the charges of first degree murder, attempted murder, and conspiracy to commit murder. At the trial, York Regional Police evidence included exhaustive tracking of the mobile device movements and text message traffic, including over 100 messages sent between Pan and Wong in the six hours prior to the killing. Further evidence centred around the atypical nature of the “break-in”, “robbery”, shootings, and irregularities in Pan’s testimony (as detected by computer analysis of her statements). Pan’s obsession with Wong, her lack of true emotion and a confession regarding the attack, and recognition of the trauma she underwent were also detailed. A major irregularity was the fact that Pan was not assaulted, blindfolded, taken to the basement, nor shot, leaving behind an eyewitness to the attack. Evidence from Hann, which differed greatly from Pan’s version, also undermined her credibility, as did her inability to recreate the conditions of her 9-1-1 call when her hands were bound behind her (given that the police were the ones who had actually cut the shoelace to release her). Despite the lack of any linking forensic evidence, Pan, Wong, Mylvaganam and Crawford were all convicted on 13 December 2014, and each received a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years. Carty was tried separately due to his incarceration on a separate charge of murder.
According to the South China Morning Post, the case “sent shockwaves across Canada and the Asian diaspora.” An editorial in the Northwest Asian Weekly suggested consideration of the “idea of recognizing the mental and psychological symptoms that parenting may have gone too far” in the Pan household. A story by Karen K. Ho in Toronto Life magazine brought the story to widespread attention by framing it an instance of tiger parenting gone tragically wrong.
In 2016, journalist Jeremy Grimaldi published a true crime book about Pan called A Daughter’s Deadly Deception: The Jennifer Pan Story. The Casefile and My Favorite Murder podcasts also covered the case.