BILL LAITNER Mar. 2, 2011
Was she a child abuser who nearly became a child killer, luring her children toward death with drug-laced milkshakes?
Or was Shanda Lou Yenglin a deeply religious single mother who, feeling she had nowhere to turn, killed herself and hoped her four adopted children would join her in the afterlife?
Those are two descriptions of the 37-year-old Waterford mother surfacing from a bizarre case that unfolded during the weekend and ended tragically Monday morning on a quiet street in Oakland County.
Authorities said Yenglin had a history of child abuse and that she tried to kill her four adopted children in the course of committing suicide Monday in the garage of the family's home near Williams Lake.
According to Waterford police, none of the children was even supposed to be spending the night with Yenglin. She lost custody in May 2010, with the two girls going to live with a foster parent and the boys placed in a state facility, Sgt. Scott Good said. Yenglin was allowed unsupervised daily visits but left messages with the children's custodians at 8 p.m. Saturday that she could not return them because of inclement weather, Good said. Oakland County Family Court Deputy Administrator Lisa Langton said Tuesday that a neglect petition had been filed against Yenglin last year but could not give details.
Her children narrowly survived the carbon monoxide poisoning that killed her, police said. Waterford police said Tuesday that Yenglin gave the children "sleeping or pain type medication" Sunday night, apparently to make them more docile in her attempt to kill them. Police found the home thermostat at 53 degrees and the house cold, part of an apparent ruse to keep the children with her to stay warm in their 1998 Chevrolet van as its engine filled their closed garage with deadly fumes. Police would not release the contents of the suicide note she left on the van's dashboard.
On Monday morning, the 13-year-old girl woke up in the van to find her mother unconscious on the garage floor. She then ran into the house to alert the sleeping 14-year-old girl -- who had not followed her mother into the garage -- who then called the police, Good said.