What prompted a Waterford Township woman to commit suicide on Monday, Feb. 28, is still sketchy, but law enforcement officials say they are grateful that her apparent attempt to kill her four children was unsuccessful.
The body of Shanda Yenglin, 37, was found in the garage of a home at 6415 Barker at 8:18 a.m. Monday after police and fire personnel responded to a 911 call from her daughter, who told dispatchers that her mom was passed out in the garage, cold and unresponsive.
Police found a 10-year-old boy inside the back of a gold 1998 Chevy Venture van in the garage, as well as an 11-year-old boy in a bedroom. Both were unresponsive. A 13-year-old daughter and 14-year-old daughter reportedly were wandering inside the home dazed and confused.
Police also observed a cat food dish overflowing with food and the house thermostat turned down to 53 degrees.
“It’s clear she was setting the stage to take her life and her children’s life,” said Waterford Police Chief Dan McCaw at a press conference held Tuesday, March 1. “This is a tragic and sad story and there is more to it than first believed.”
Yenglin’s death has been ruled a suicide by acute carbon monoxide poisoning by the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office. A suicide note was left on the van’s dashboard and is believed to have been written by Yenglin, but that is still being verified, according to police.
Yenglin was the adoptive mother of all four children found at the scene. Police had been called to the home on separate previous occasions. In May 2010, the courts took away her parental rights and she lost custody of the children. Subsequently, the girls were placed with a foster home and the boys were placed in a state facility as wards of the state.
Then in January, Yenglin was allowed unsupervised day visits with the children at her home after several supervised visits. On Saturday, Feb. 26, she was allowed an unsupervised visit from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., but around 8 p.m. she left messages with the boys’ and girls’ custodians to indicate she couldn’t return the children due to inclement weather.
A foster parent proceeded to file a parental kidnapping complaint within her jurisdiction. Police said that on the evening of Sunday, Feb. 27, Yenglin gave all four children some kind of sleeping or pain medication. She told three of the children — the 10-year-old, 11-year-old and 13 year-old — to go out to the van to stay warm, sometime late Sunday evening. The 14-year-old fell asleep in a bedroom and didn’t go with the others since she was ill.
The 13-year-old awoke sometime during the night to go back into the house and retrieve a blanket, when she found her mother on the garage floor. She ran back into the house and woke up her older sister and phoned 911.
The children were conveyed to a hospital where the boys were listed in serious condition; however, the girls have been released, and the boys are now expected to be released within the next day or so.
“The children are trying to get their bearings and figure out how this could have happened,” McCaw said. “They couldn’t remember much because she sedated them. Our hope now is to put the children into a healthy environment.”
Waterford police are encouraging individuals who personally know the family or anyone with knowledge of the events that occurred to contact them at 248-674-0351.