Yanqing Wang had a bad feeling.
He had not heard from his sister in days, and his calls were going unanswered. Then, he went to her WeChat social media profile and discovered that all her friends and photos, dating back 10 years, had been deleted.
Where was she? What was going on?
Wang got the grim news a day later, on Nov. 8. His sister, Yanxiang Wang, 64, and her husband, Li Gaoshan, 72, were missing. Their daughter, Mei Haskell, 37, was presumed dead after authorities said her torso was found in a dumpster. And the daughter’s husband, Samuel Bond Haskell IV, 35, was arrested on suspicion of murder.
The gruesome case has made international headlines. But for Wang, 59, and other family members, coming to terms with what happened — and why — has been impossible.
Wang said he saw no hints of problems at the Tarzana home the two couples shared. Haskell’s three children, who were at school when police got involved in the case, were found safe and are now in foster care, according to Wang.
Law enforcement sources not authorized to publicly discuss the case told the Los Angeles Times that they believe Haskell killed his wife and in-laws and dismembered their bodies. They say he dumped Mei’s torso in an Encino trash bin and his in-laws’ bodies somewhere else. Two vehicles that had been missing from the Haskells’ Tarzana property — a white Volkswagen Tiguan and a white 2014 Nissan Pathfinder — were found in the San Fernando Valley.
Wang and his extended family, many of whom live in China, are distraught. One of five siblings, Wang said he still hasn’t told his two older sisters that Yanxiang is missing and was likely killed.
And he’s frustrated that law enforcement hasn’t offered more answers. Wang has tried calling police and left messages, but he says no one has gotten back to him. He wonders whether a language barrier is hindering communication.
“They have been missing for 20 days,” Wang said. “How can he hide it so well for so long?
“If he murdered three people, he must have a deep-seated hatred,” Wang said in Mandarin, shaking his head in disbelief.
Robert Schwartz, Haskell’s lawyer, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Haskell, who remains in jail in lieu of $2 million bail, is scheduled to appear in court Friday. He has not entered a plea to any of the charges against him.
Haskell, the son of a well-known Hollywood executive, started dating Mei when the two were students at Cal State Northridge, her uncle said.
The young woman moved to the United States in the mid-2000s to study accounting; her mother and stepfather had to sell their house in China to afford her tuition. Wang, who lives in Monterey Park, started working at a local restaurant to help pay for her education.
Mei wanted her uncle to approve of her partner and introduced him to Haskell, whom Wang described as “strange” and “quiet and reserved” but also a seemingly “good guy.” He said they didn’t speak much because Wang doesn’t speak much English.
The couple married after graduation, and following the birth of their first child 13 years ago, Mei’s mother and stepfather moved from China to live with the Haskells, Wang said.
As the family grew to include two more children, Mei’s parents helped look after the kids while she worked. They all lived together in a single-story home in the 4100 block of Coldstream Terrace in Tarzana.
Although Wang never heard of any fights between the couple or any talk of divorce, he said his sister complained that Mei was the only one paying for their $7,000-a-month mortgage and that Haskell hadn’t offered financial support when they were looking to buy a house three years ago.
He said his sister had a stroke a few years ago, which made it more difficult for her to walk. But she still did a lot of the cooking and cleaning, as well as looking after the children.
Meanwhile, to afford their monthly house payments, Wang said Mei had to work multiple jobs, including at a consulting business for families who want their children to study in the United States.
Little is known about what led up to the violence.
Inside the Haskells’ Tarzana home, detectives discovered blood and other evidence consistent with death and dismemberment, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman said.
Authorities say Haskell first tried to dispose of human remains on Nov. 7, when he hired day laborers to remove bags from his property. The workers, who were paid $500 and initially told they were hauling away rocks, then Halloween decorations, said the bags felt soggy and soft, like meat. They quickly realized what they had loaded into the back of their truck was body parts and they hurried to return the bags — and the money — before reporting the incident, according to KNBC-TV Channel 4. But by the time police arrived, the bags were gone.
Haskell later was caught on video dumping a large bag from the back of his Tesla about five miles from his home, authorities said. A man scavenging for recyclables in a dumpster in an Encino strip mall found a duffel bag containing a human torso the following morning.
Los Angeles police Capt. Scot Williams of the Robbery-Homicide Division said the torso is assumed to be that of Mei, who has not been located. But forensics will be needed to confirm the identity.
LAPD Detective Efren Gutierrez said efforts to reach the woman’s parents have also yielded no results.
Mei and her parents continue to be the focus of intense search efforts. Williams said police have scoured “all the places we believe (Haskell) may have gone in the days leading up to his arrest.”
But Silverman thinks the three are dead and said Haskell disposed of their bodies. “He had several days and drove through Los Angeles County,” she added.
Silverman said earlier this month that no other bags containing body parts or remains have been recovered.
“But I don’t need a body to charge a murder,” the prosecutor said.
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