Waterford mother kills herself, nearly kills her four children
Published: Wednesday, March 02, 2011
By Carol Hopkins
For The Daily Tribune
A male relative of the Waterford mother a woman who laced her children’s milkshakes, taking them with her into a garage with a running van is anxious for the world to know that Shanda Yenglin’s life and history can’t be summed up by the circumstances surrounding her death.
“The kids were her life,” he said.
The relative, who we’ll call “Tom,” lives in Oakland County and has known Yenglin all his life. He is a year younger than Yenglin.
Tom is upset with how Yenglin is being portrayed in media accounts and he is also angry with the social service agencies Yenglin worked with.
“The state never helped,” he said.
“She did this (caring for the children) all by herself.”
Yenglin, who was found dead Monday in her Waterford Township garage from carbon monoxide poisoning of suicide, had four adopted children, two boys, 11 and 12, and two girls, 13 and 14.
Police said Tuesday it appeared Yenglin had attempted to kill her children with carbon monoxide in the garage at the same time. The children are currently recuperating.
Tom said Yenglin’s children had special needs including learning disabilities and problems with aggression. One was born to a crack-addicted mother, he said.
Tom said he and Yenglin texted once or twice every week. They spoke on the phone around six times a year.
“I always got a (photograph on my phone) whenever they went on a vacation or when she had a visitation,” he said.
“They were always all smiling.”
He quickly added that the Yenglin household was not always “picture-perfect.”
Waterford police said they had made trips to the home.
Court records indicate Yenglin lost custody of the children last May.
A child protective petition filed that month accused Yenglin of slapping a child and pushing his head onto the bathroom floor with enough force to crack three front teeth. Yenglin waited until the next day to seek dental treatment, the petition alleges, and told the child to lie to the dentist and say that his injuries were caused by slipping.
Yenglin was also accused of slamming another child down on the floor with enough force to cause him to temporarily be unable to breathe.
“Why weren’t they checking,” said Tom, speaking of state officials.
When the children were taken from her, Tom said, they were “horribly upset.”
Claims Yenglin neglected her children are not true, said Tom.
“It was not neglect,” he said.
“She was unable to control them.”
Tom does not dismiss what Yenglin did, he said.
“I’m not saying what she did was right. I can’t say what put her over the edge.”
She always wanted children
Tom said Yenglin graduated from Lakeland High School in 1991.
“She was an extrovert, very strong and independent,” he said.
Yenglin was fun, with a “vibrant laugh. If you walked into a room, you knew she was in there because of her laugh or her presence.”
Tom said, “She always wanted children but she never found the right person to have children with.”
One page of her blog notes her favorite reality TV show was about the Duggar family, a couple who have 19 children.
At age 21, Shanda Yenglin began taking care of foster children, said Tom.
Tom remembered Yenglin caring for up to 20 different children through the years.
Yenglin did marry in 2003 but the union was short-lived.
Court records show that Yenglin and her then-husband had adopted one child and were in the process of adopting another when she filed for divorce in May 2005. The marriage was annulled later that year.
Tom said Yenglin had one of the children since the child was a baby. Some of the other children were in foster care with Yenglin since they were between 3-5 years old.
He said two of the four children are related.
Yenglin appears to have held several jobs over the years.
She did train to be an EMT, but lost her license after she was too ill to keep up its requirements, said Tom.
She also worked in the home health care industry, Tom said, but Yenglin’s blog notes that she didn’t always have full-time work.
Tom said Yenglin was writing a book, and that it had started out as her blog.
Tom said Yenglin also had tried to turn her hobby of making jewelry into a way to earn money.
One blog entry outlines an ill-fated trip Yenglin and her children made to a jewelry show in June, 2009.
The blog indicated while Yenglin made money, she wound up spending much more when a tire blew on the trip and one of the children broke out one of the windows on the family vehicle.
The blog also reflects Yenglin’s religious faith. Each blog includes a Bible verse and has links to her church, Faith Church in Waterford.
He said Yenglin’s family, who live all around the U.S., have a tradition of getting together at Christmastime.
Last Christmas was the last time Tom saw her.
“She seemed fine,” he said.
“The family loved each other. The kids would be listening or going to play, as kids do. One was more of a handful. He had a very rough start to life.”
Tom said Yenglin had depression but that “she was on antidepressants.
“I don’t think there was depression until she had the cancer.”
He knew Yenglin did have financial needs but said when he visited her home, he found “tons of food.” He said he was unaware if she received any financial assistance.
Tom said his family is in shock over Yenglin’s suicide.
He said Yenglin’s parents realize what she did was a “horrible act and that they have not only lost a daughter, but almost lost four grandchildren.”
Tom believed Yenglin cared for her four adopted children for nearly eight years.
He said Yenglin “almost died” when she had breast cancer in 2007, adding that “the state didn’t check on her then. But I’m not saying this (the suicide and attempted deaths) is the state’s fault.
“I’m asking how did four special needs children get put with a single mother without anyone checking?”