Jul. 15, 2004. 01:00 AM

Girl who drowned in tub was autistic, friend says
Police investigate `suspicious' death

Family in Canada for four years


A 4-year-old Scarborough girl who is believed to have drowned in her family bathtub is known to be autistic.

Although police have not released the victim's name, friends identify her father as David Xing Zhuang Chen and her mother as Pang Xuan, both immigrants from China. They have been in Canada for four years.

A note in Chinese attached to a bouquet laid out on a lawn chair in front of the couple's Rosebank Dr. townhouse, near Markham Rd. and Sheppard Ave., read, "We are sad to have lost our dear niece, Jia Jia."

Neighbour Ru Yuan-gong, who lives several houses down from the family, said the little girl was unable to speak and appeared to be lonely with no friends.

"She's 4 but still couldn't talk. She was a nice girl, but she never played with other kids," said Ru, in an interview in Mandarin.

The girl was found submerged in the tub of a second-floor bathroom Monday evening when the father, a computer consultant with Telus Mobility, arrived home from work. The tub was filled with laundry and water at the time, police say.

An autopsy showed the child likely drowned. Police are treating the case as suspicious.

According to a family friend, the couple moved into the area three years ago and were joined by their autistic daughter and her grandmother last year.

He said the grandmother told him the child was autistic. Earlier this summer, Pang tried unsuccessfully to enrol her daughter in junior kindergarten at a public school, said the man.

with files from Cal Millar