In January, Jennifer Pan learned she would be in prison until 2035 before she gets a shot at parole: The Toronto Star reported the 28-year-old Canadian was handed two life sentences for the murder of her mother and attempted murder of her father. Six months later, a 5,200-word Toronto Life feature penned by former classmate Karen K. Ho digs into the backstory and tries to answer the question of what Pan and accomplice/classmate Daniel Wong "were thinking, feeling and hoping for." Spoiler alert: Ho concludes her piece in "the purgatory of not knowing," but she paints a detailed picture along the way. "The more I learned about Jennifer’s strict upbringing, the more I could relate to her," writes Ho. Both were raised by immigrant parents from Asia; in Pan's case, mother Bich Ha and father Huei Hann Pan came from Vietnam in 1979. The pressure to excel—as a pianist, ice skater, and academically—was intense for the "golden child."
So much so that a suite of B grades in her early high school years led her to concoct an elaborate, years-long coverup. She began by forging straight-A report cards. When her acceptance to Ryerson University was withdrawn after she failed calculus, she lied and said she was enrolled there, and later at the University of Toronto pharmacology program, even claiming to have graduated. In truth she read up on science at libraries, worked restaurant jobs, taught piano, and spent secret time with boyfriend Wong. The ruse ultimately unraveled, and her parents clamped down—as Wong began to see a girl named Christine. Things spiraled from there, with the two reuniting and planning to have Pan's parents killed by hit men; they'd then live off Pan's inheritance. Incredibly, her father survived—and remembered "seeing his daughter chatting softly ... 'like a friend'" with one of the "intruders." Read Ho's story in full.