Hmong community holds candlelight vigil at Vadnais Lake for Minnesota couple and their 3 children

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The Hmong 18 Council of Minnesota along with family and community members held a candlelight vigil at Vadnais Lake to honor the memory of a couple and their three children, who were drowned by their mother.

Members of the Hmong community gathered on Saturday and placed flowers, candles and balloons at the shore of Vadnais Lake, where the abandoned shoes of the three children were found two weeks ago.

Yee Lee, the 27-year-old father, died from a self-inflicted gunshot in his Maplewood home on July 1. That afternoon, Molly Cheng, the 23-year-old mother, drowned her three children and herself in Vadnais Lake. The deaths of Quadrillion T. Lee, 4, and Estella Zoo Siab Lee, 3, were reported to be caused by drowning and smothering. The cause of death of Phoenix Lee, 5, was determined to be drowning.

“When tragic events happen, community mourning and healing gathering play a key role in bringing the community together to mourn and support each other,” the Hmong 18 Council posted on Facebook.

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The fathers of the couple both spoke at the vigil through Hmong 18 councilwoman and translator Jasmine Lykhang. They voiced their deep grief and gratitude for the support of the community.

“It is such a heartbreaking event for me, my grandchildren have always lived with me up until this point and I do not know what to do anymore, I’m heart stricken and it hurts so much that I don't know what to say to the community,” Chong Cheng said.

“Because I do not have any high education, I do not know how to help my son, my daughter-in-law and my grandchildren, that's why I’m relying on my friends and my family and the community at such hard times,” Koua Lee said.

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The Hmong 18 Council was founded more than 20 years ago when a Hmong mother killed her six children in 1998 in St. Paul. It was established to provide the community sufficient social services to prevent incidents like that of the Vadnais Lake triple-murder suicide.

The Twin Cities is home to the largest concentration of Hmong in the U.S. with more than 66,000 calling Minnesota their home.

“I would like to see my community open up,” Lykhang reportedly said. “I think people are afraid to reach out for help because they fear judgment, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of and we don’t want to see this again, in our community or in any other community.”

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Family members of Lee and Cheng have set up a fundraiser on GoFundMe to help raise money for the family’s funeral expenses. With the goal of raising $125,000, the campaign has collected $14,378, as of press time.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. For a list of international suicide hotlines, click here.

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Featured Image via CBS News