Details of Disappearance
Karen was last seen playing outside of her family's home at Riverhills Apartments on Monroe Street in Grenada, Mississippi on May 21, 1994 at approximately 6:30 p.m. Karen's stepfather, Shindong He, was the last person to see her. He went outside to check on her at 11:00 p.m. and couldn't find her. At midnight, Karen's mother arrived home, and they called the police.
Two children who knew Karen reported seeing her get into a van with a tall Asian man on the day of her disappearance. An extensive search of the area produced no clues as to the child's whereabouts; she has never been heard from again.
Karen's mother, Wen Hua Zhou, was born in China and had been living in Mississippi for about two years prior to her daughter's disappearance, but she still spoke little English. She used "May" as her American name. Karen's biological father, Wen Hua's first husband, lived in China when Karen disappeared and hadn't had any contact with her for years, and was thus ruled out as a suspect in her disappearance.
Karen was a fifth-grade student at Lizzie Horn Elementary School in 1994. Her teachers stated she was a good student, although she was still learning English. However, they noted she frequently came to school with bruises.
Karen's stepfather refused to take a polygraph in her case, and he is considered the prime suspect in her disappearance. Her stepfather was later convicted of aggravated assault in Nashville, Tennessee; Wen Hua was the victim in that case, and during the incident, her husband told her he had killed Karen. He was subsequently deported back to China.
Karen's disappearance remains unsolved; investigators believe she was the victim of a homicide. It remains classified as a non-family abduction.