A Vietnamese-Canadian woman responded to extreme academic pressure from her parents with orchestrating their murder after 15 years of lying to them about accomplishments.
In January of this year, Jennifer Pan was sentenced to at least 25 years in prison for murdering her mother and attempting to murder her father. The 28-year-old Canadian was brought up strictly by her Vietnamese parents who arrived in the US in 1979. The”golden child” was expected to excel and the pressure to do so was intense, writes Kate Seamons for Newser.
Jennifer made up a complex, long-term fantasy meant to cover up her lies, which included secretly seeing a boyfriend of whom her parents did not approve, forging her grades on her report cards, and lying about being enrolled in college. In the end, her mother was dead, her father was disabled, and Jennifer was in prison.
Before the tragedy, Jennifer was a straight A student at a Catholic school. She then graduated, as her father wished she would, from the University of Toronto’s well-respected pharmacology program, and went to work at a blood-testing lab at SickKids hospital, reports Yanan Wang of The Washington Post. Her parents were brimming with pride because although they were humble refugees from Vietnam, they were the parents of two children who were going to be successful and important in ways they would never be able to attain.
But Jennifer’s lies were sweeping. She did not graduate from high school and did not graduate from the University of Toronto. And, in the end, the unthinkable took place when Jennifer hired hit men to kill her parents.
Last week, a classmate of Jennifer’s, reporter Karen Ho, wrote of the hard-to-believe story through the use of court documents and interviews. She reported that although Jennifer seemed to be a friendly, confident person, she was actually a tormented girl with feelings of “inadequacy, self-doubt, and shame.”
It took awhile, but at some point Pan’s parents became suspicious and began a journey to find the truth about their daughter. They discovered the complex web of lies that Jennifer had been living and, when confronted, she confessed. The Pan family soon began to fall apart.
In high school, her parents restricted her and her brother’s activities to ensure their academic success. Extracurricular activities, however, were important, and included figure skating, piano, martial arts, and swimming. There were no parties, no dating, but there were hours of late night studying.
The insight into the story, included in the article by Jennifer’s classmate, triggered Asian immigrant children in the US and Canada to take to social media and share similar stories of high expectations from their parents and the fear brought on by not meeting those expectations.
The back story shared by Karen K. Ho, for Toronto Life, highlights the possible consequences that can come from the high expectations by immigrant parents, the pressures to sustain the “model minority myth,” and the disgrace of mental health issues like depression that continues in some cultures, reports Frances Kai-Hwa Wang of NBC News.
“The more I learned about Jennifer’s strict upbringing, the more I could relate to her,” wrote Ho. “I grew up with immigrant parents who also came to Canada from Asia (in their case Hong Kong) with almost nothing, and a father who demanded a lot from me.”
Pan began to cut herself in eighth grade. This and the doctoring of her report cards went on through Jennifer’s senior year. She failed calculus and did not graduate from high school. At that point, Pan began to ramp up her lies and began down a road that ended in the destruction of a family.
“Ultimately, it’s a horrible crime,” Ho told The Washington Post. “But because so many people have gone through the experience of growing up like Jennifer, it’s not unfathomable to them that someone would just break.”