Neal Williams, 27 and Manling Tsang, 31 met while he was working at Subway, she was a friend of his co-worker. Neal was instantly attracted to Manling telling his friends and family she was beautiful and very easy to confide in. Neil was also attending college at Mt. San Antonio College. It wasn’t long after they started dating that Manling got pregnant and Devon was born July 26, 2000. In 2001 they decided to marry quickly at the court house and would plan a big wedding later at a Taiwanese church with friends and family. After getting married Neal and Manling moved to Rowland Heights and Ian was born in 2003.
Devon was the silly, sociable and tolerant one. He told everyone he was going to study monkeys at Whittier College when he grew up. That’s where his grandma Jan Williams worked. Ian was the rascally one that was always getting into something or pestering his brother like younger siblings do.
The boy’s grandma Jan says she remembers going to see them one evening and tucking them into bed when they asked if she would sing Puff the magic dragon. After singing she says the boys were scared “Because it says a dragon lives forever but not so for little boys,” She explained to them that that phrase was about children growing up and leaving their toys behind.
Jan says that was once a sweet memory of her grandsons but now it is painful and says “I promised him he was safe in his bed, and he wasn’t.”
It was around 7:30 in the morning on Aug. 8, 2007 when neighbors saw Manling Tsang Williams running around outside covered in blood and screaming for help at her condominium. When the Los Angeles county sheriff’s arrived they found Neal’s lifeless body at the top of the stairs of the two-bedroom condo. He had multiple stab and slashing wounds. His hands were mangled and he had a very large “X” slash in his torso. There was an excessive amount of blood around him and the carpet in the condo was saturated with it also. Laying close by was a sword, also with blood on it.
As officer’s looked throughout the house they saw food boxes, trash, clothes and other items lying around. There were pots piled up on the stove, trash covered the kitchen counter and living room table, and trash cans were also overflowing.
In a bedroom 3-year-old Ian Williams was tucked into bed with his favorite blanket, it had teddy bears on it. 7-year-old Devon Williams was on the top bunk bed tucked with his favorite SpongeBob blanket. Both boys looked as if they were sleeping soundly but they in fact had been smothered with pillows.
Manling agreed to go down to the police station for questioning. Once she got there she told deputies that she came home after going grocery shopping. She asked “Does anyone know if my husband is OK?” “I want my babies. Please let them be OK.”
She told her neighbor Francine Cerda a different story about going for a drive the night before to “cool off her head” and was just getting back home.
Jan, the kids grandmother and Neal’s mother was at work when she got the phone call that no parent should ever get. She remembers thinking “I thought maybe they were in an accident. But murder? Who would murder them? And the boys? Who would kill little boys?”
Jan thought Manling was only being questioned due to standard protocol; she had no reason to believe that her daughter-in-law, the mother to her grandchildren and wife to her son murdered her children and husband. Jan and Manling’s parents comforted each other as they waited for more news on their murdered family members. Manling was arrested on and charged with 3 counts of first degree murder. She was also denied bail. She confessed to writing a suicide note pinning the kids murder on her husband and putting it on MySpace. During the confession she said
“I felt like a bitch. I felt like a cold-hearted bitch,” Manling said to deputies in the video. “Why did I do that? Why did I do this?”
Los Angeles County sheriff’s Detective Donald Walls said Manling was arrogant during her confession and even joked about being on CSI. He said for the most part she was relaxed as if they were friends and having a lunch date.
The family came to the realization of what happened and who murdered Neal and their grandchildren, they were in shock. She had been acting differently in the last few months but they had no idea nor would they suspect that she could or would commit this heinous crime.
At Manling’s trial her Defense Attorneys, Tom Althaus and Haydeh Takasugi explained her actions as a “fit of uncontrollable rage brought on by an abusive childhood and mistreatment by her husband.” They told jurors that Manling’s whole life was filled with “pain, heartache, and diminished dreams.”
He said that Manling Tsang Williams actions were not premeditated and told jurors:
“I’m not trying to make excuses or condone anything in this case.” At one point the defense even pleaded her case saying “With my heart racing, hand trembling, and voice breaking, I ask you to allow this sister, this daughter, this mother to retreat back to her cell … to do so each and every day until she awakes no more … to do so at the hands of God and not the hands of man.”
The medical examiner that handled the case testified that Neal was stabbed and slashed all over his body over 90 times with a samurai sword. The prosecutor Deputy District Attorney, Stacy Okun-Wiese and Deputy District Attorney, Pak Kouch argued that the murder of Manling’s family was a ploy to get back together with a former boyfriend. She told jurors “Make no mistake about it, granting life without parole is granting leniency,” she said. During closing arguments they told jurors that Manling began planning things as much as 2 months ahead of time. She told friends she was having dreams where Neal was suffocating the boys and then killed himself.
The jury weighed all the information on both sides for 8 hours in November 2010 before coming back and finding her guilty on all accounts. The jury also found her guilty of the special circumstances of lying in wait and multiple murders.
On November 29th Pomona Superior Court Judge, Robert M. Martinez declared a mistrial after the panel announced that it could not reach a verdict in the penalty phase. The jury box was split 8-4 with the majority in favor of the death penalty.
Jan sent letters to the District Attorney’s office asking prosecuting to drop the death sentence in exchange for life without parole. She says that both families have been through too much and a death sentence would only bring years of appeals and even more court dates. Jan was tired and both families just needed to attempt to get closure. That could never happen as long as they kept appearing in court proceedings and dragging things out.
Jan told a reporter:
“You feel like you don’t matter to either side, like it’s just a chess game between them,” Jan said. “It’s crazy at this point to go through it all again. What is it for? What does it bring to us?”
When Jan left the courtroom on January 11th she was solemn and looked worn down. They did not consider her letter and the judge advised them to come back to court on April 18th for a second penalty phase. She says she doesn’t know if she will come back but if she doesn’t who will serve as a reminder for the victims?
In most cases I would say that stabbing someone that many times constitutes a hate crime or crime of passion. Most defense attorneys will play that angle to but they chose their words very carefully. Perhaps she was abused and she snapped and once she started she was so overcome with rage that she didn’t realize just how many times she stabbed him. BUT, I don’t see that in this case. If she was in a bad marriage ok, fine, but why did she murder the boys? It doesn’t fit IMO.
Jan has carried all 3 of her murdered loved ones and this case on her shoulders for 3 years now. It seems to have depleted any life that was once worth living. I don’t say that as an insult, it’s just what I come away from after reading her blog and studying this case. Many of her friends and family have distanced themselves from her because they don’t understand how she cannot overcome the brutal murder of her son and grandsons. I believe it was in Jan’s blog that I read an entry that said this event has consumed her, everything is defined as before and after. I couldn’t begin to imagine the grief this mother is going through, my heart breaks for her, I hope one day she will find some kind of solace. Manling’s family has also been forever changed. We can say that it is not the family’s fault but they still carry that burden and nothing changes that. Manling’s father Kai Tai Tsang was asked during his testimony why his daughter should be spared the death penalty. He stood up and looked directly at Jan Williams, saying:
“When talking about this, I feel I owe too much to the Neal (Williams) family,” Tsang said. “I feel really sorry. Please forgive me. As a father, I didn’t do good. That is why it happened. I am sorry.” Tsang bowed to Jan, a show if respect in his culture, before leaving the stand.
Unlike the testimonies from friends, peers, clergy, and her brother, Shunling Tsang said she wasn’t angry or unhappy about her childhood and experienced little to no mistreatment from her parents.
Shunling Tsang testified that she agreed to take the stand for one reason, to save her sister. She stated,
“These things are family secrets that people don’t say in court.” She also testified that her sister had changed in the months prior to Neal, Devon and Ian’s murder. She would call in the middle of the night just to talk.
Shunling said “When they died, it was like the joy left the world,” she said. “Those kids meant the world to a lot of people.” “To me and to my family, the losses have been pretty unbearable and here we are, trying to save hers, though,” she said. “When I go to work at my job, I see a lot of death … I see a lot of tragedy in the emergency rooms and a lot of times my job is to help save lives. And there is nothing I can do, nothing I can prescribe to help ease (Manling Williams) situation or my parents’ pain … there is just no words for how much I want to see my sister live.”
Manling Tsang Williams is scheduled to go back to court for another sentencing hearing on February 2, 2011 according to the inmate information I pulled on her.
You can view all L.A. county inmates at this website
Sorry this link is so long, you may have to copy and paste if it does not work.
An Excerpt from – A Birthday letter from Jan, Neal’s mom that was published in May 19, 2008
Neal’s 28th birthday. More than any other holiday or anniversary that I have faced in the last nine months, this is the one that is the most difficult. This is the day my only son was born. He should be here to eat his grandmother’s key lime pie, the one she only makes for him. It isn’t fair. It isn’t right. He had so many things to look forward to and he didn’t deserve to die. How hard it is as a parent to think of your child bleeding out his life in fear and pain. There are times when I think that my heart is too wounded to beat even one beat more.
I have spoken and written about the little boys, but until now I have been unable to write about Neal. That isn’t because I loved my grandchildren more than I loved my son. I think it is because the hurt is too close. And because so many parts of our personalities were similar, holding a magnifying glass up to examine Neal means that I must examine myself as well. To help you see Neal I must expose a bit of me. That isn’t easy or comfortable, so let me take a couple of deep breaths……………………..You can read the rest here http://www.insidesocal.com/sgvcrime/rowland_heights/
Jan William’s also keeps a blog a called Grief’s Journey, you can visit it here