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The Case of Ka Yang

Suspect comforted by Bible, Book of Mormon

By D. A. Gougherty

Four weeks ago, Sacramento and much of the world was horrified to hear of the arrest of a Sacramento mother who allegedly killed her baby daughter by microwaving the child.

On June 22, 29-year old Ka Yang was arrested for the March 17 death of her six week old baby girl, Mirabelle Thao-Lo. Based on an autopsy and a reported extensive forensic review, investigators alleged that the burns found on the child were consistent with just a few other cases of microwave burning deaths.

As news broke of Yang’s arrest, the story quickly made its way through local and international media. Because of the horrendous alleged nature of the child’s death, Yang was quickly castigated in online news forums and over water cooler chatter.

As often is the case, the public only heard the prosecutor’s version and several key factors were not included in the initial reports. But then again, are they ever?

After the story broke I spoke to a colleague who, like Yang, is Hmong. I inquired if she heard of the case or knew her in Sacramento’s tight-knit Hmong community. My colleague said she did not know her but did make one very accurate description of Yang - “She suffers from epilepsy,” she said.

How could she be so sure I asked. My colleague explained that from Yang’s booking picture she had a “look” just like her daughter who had passed away three years ago from epilepsy. “I just know,” she stated.

Sure enough, within a day of Yang’s arrest a story made the round that Yang was indeed epileptic.

Following her June 23 arraignment, my colleague and I visited Yang at the Sacramento County Jail on Saturday, June 25 where we learned more about the case – this time from the suspect.

As indeed has been reported, Yang confirmed (and later verified by medical records) that she had  suffered from epilepsy since the age of 15 and had regularly had seizures. Yang also told us that when she was arrested and booked she told jail authorities that she was about three month pregnant. This fact was not publicly revealed until last week.

Yang said that she told jail officials she was pregnant upon booking but they did not believe her and it wasn’t until a medical examination three days later that confirmed what she told them.  

Although many of the facts surrounding this case have yet to be revealed, when I spoke with Yang she didn’t seem like the monstrous person most people had already painted her as.

It  was evident that Yang was a slightly confused, scared, contrite and tearful person who spoke in a very soft gentle voice. While these behaviors obviously do not prove guilt or innocence, she did not fit the typecast of a child murderer that had been on portrayed days earlier and bought en masse by the public.  

On our most recent visit on Saturday, July 16, among other thing discussed Yang was asked if she had access to any reading material and she said the psychiatric professional she spoke with provided her with two books. When asked what books, she said the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

Yang said that she is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints and that both books, along with prayer, were providing her with comfort.

Although the forensic facts of the very sad death of Mirabelle will only be learned when, and if, this case goes to trial, there is more that will be learned about the circumstances of the life of Ka Yang and the death of Mirabelle in the months and years to come.

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