The Associated Press, August 4, 1999

Police Arrest Parents of Girl Found Dead in Prayer Room

PHOENIX (AP) -- Authorities have brought murder charges against the parents of an 8-year-old girl whose beaten body was found in her family's Buddhist prayer room near a note written in blood praying for "compassion, love and kindness."

Tung Tuong, 42, and Minh Tuong, 30, were arrested Tuesday on murder and child abuse charges in the death of Christine Tuong. They each were being held on $1 million bond.

The couple has been under investigation since the girl's bruised body was discovered May 15. Her parents waited nearly 14 hours to report her death.

A preliminary autopsy report said the girl was hit with a belt more than 17 times, leaving injuries that match belt buckles found in the family's home. "The injuries were so severe that Christine was not even able to speak or walk under her own power," the report said.

The couple told police the girl came home the night she died with bruises after playing in a vacant lot near their home. They said they tried to heal her with a Buddhist ritual that involved prayer and oils that were rubbed on her body.

The Tuongs' four other young children, including a boy born in June, are in the custody of the state's Child Protective Services agency. Police said the family had been investigated at least four times since 1995 after school nurses reported seeing bruises for which the explanations seemed far-fetched.

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