Amber and Melissa were last noticed on November 22nd, 2019 in Irvine, California. Irvine is known to be a decently comfortable place- even being hailed THE safest US city of its’ size for 16 years in a row.
Amber Diaz was originally born in Dalian, China on June 25th, 1985 as Wu Mei Yi, later adopting the nickname Melissa. She shifted to Chicago in 2005. It was there that she gave birth to her daughter named Fu Hao, nicknamed Melissa, in 2007 nonetheless it was soon thereafter that her husband died of cancer. Amber briefly took her daughter back to China to raise her with the assistance of her family but when she acknowledged she would not be able to afford to send Melissa to school she made the move back to the United States, this time landing in Las Vegas. She found success in starting up a seafood grocery business.
It was in 2017 that Amber and Cheng Zhang started dating, but it is uncertain when or even if they ever married- sources are mixed on that. It is known that they briefly separated in 2018, but shortly reunited and shifted to Irvine within a year. Zhang worked as an Uber driver, while Amber carried her business to Irvine and made a loyal customer base there for her groceries. She often communicated with clients, as well as friends and family, on WeChat (a Chinese messaging app) and also made regular trips to and from Las Vegas, transporting and delivering fresh groceries. She had even recently started bringing her then 12-year-old daughter on the expeditions.
The day the duo vanished, on November 22nd, 2019, Amber Aiaz was on one of her trips driving back home to Irvine from Vegas, a car full of fresh fruit and seafood to sell later at the market. For this specific trip, she decided to leave Melissa’s home with her stepdad.
At about 4:30 pm, Zhang hears a knock at the door of their apartment on Michelson Drive. He gets up and is instantly confronted by the sight of a man and a woman of Chinese descent that he didn’t recognize. He remembers noticing the woman holding something in her right hand, but before he could even process what it could be, he felt a wet mist and that is the last thing he recalls before passing out on the floor of his dining room.
Upon waking, Zhang observed a bloody handprint on the wall as well as blood on the carpet and soon realized his stepdaughter was nowhere to be found. Looking at the time he also understood his wife should have made it back by then. In the moments after waking and coming to these realizations, Zhang’s attention turned to a piece of white lined paper with a handwritten note in Chinese. It said that Amber and Melissa were okay and that they would be home in a few days, but only if he obeyed instructions, reading “if you contact police, you won’t see them again. Clean the apartment. Behave normally. We are watching you.”
He found Amber’s car, a Ford Explorer, full of groceries and parked in its regular spot. No clue about Amber though. So Zhang returned inside and started following the instructions. He worked tirelessly ripping up the square of carpet that had been stained with blood and replacing it, repainting the wall where the bloody handprint had been and made contact with his stepdaughter’s school to say she was sick and thus wouldn’t be in class, and even impersonated Amber via using her WeChat account to communicate with customers. He even made her deliveries, clarifying to her disturbed customers that she was busy at home whenever they asked about her.
For a few days of this, notes would appear slipped under the apartment door, reassuring them that he was doing nice and would see them quickly, as long as he kept behaving normal and didn’t call the police. Five days post disappearance, another note arrived, but this one notified him to leave town for two days. Zhang complied and fled to a relative’s home in Vegas, still keeping quiet about his wife and stepdaughter’s disappearance.
When he came back from Vegas, yet another note was waiting, reading “They are fine. Clean the carpet again. Clean the house again. You will see them Monday.”
Nonetheless, Monday came and went. Zhang anxiously awaited more notes, an update, anything. But no more slipped under the door. After many days of radio silence, Zhang took the absence of notes as a terrible sign and eventually decided to involve the police on December 2nd.
Quite obviously, the police were skeptical of Zhang and his whole story. Nonetheless, after a comprehensive investigation, which included over 40 hours of interviews with Zhang and 44 days of 24/7 surveillance, the police couldn’t discover any evidence to disprove his story and the investigation’s findings only tended to support Zhang’s version of events.
According to police, Zhang did not act suspiciously during the whole 44-day surveillance, and he even assisted police in discovering the evidence he had originally gotten rid of while following the kidnapper’s instructions.
Testing done on the blood pooling beneath the replaced carpet came back positive as belonging to Amber. There were a few elements that still rose a few eyebrows at Zhang such as his neighbors at the apartment complex observing him carrying a large cooler and storage container outside. Nonetheless, Zhang claimed he was just cleaning the apartment as warned by the kidnappers. Police also noticed a cut on his left thumb, but he clarified that as having happened while cooking/cutting meat. He even showed how it happened.
The Mysterious Knock-Out Liquid
One thing in Zhang’s story that stumped investigators at first was how immediate and powerful the liquid substance had to be to knock out a fully grown man in mere seconds. Did anything exist with that power outside of the movies? As it turns out, yes: the anesthetic spray halothane can render an individual unconscious almost instantly, and interestingly enough is available in China but not the United States.
Some theorize that something or someone in Amber’s past caught up with her. She habitually exaggerated her financial status- claiming to numerous people that she was prosperous when she had no significant wealth whatsoever. Even Zhang himself was surprised at the revelation that she even lied to him too about a nonexistent fortune. Amber had also, according to Zhang, been seeing a man in China romantically while in the relationship, which was the reason for the breakup in 2018. Did a scorned ex-lover have it out for her?
Or is Zhang a genius manipulator and highly skilled liar? In January 2020, Zhang passed a polygraph with no clues of deception and was even studied by a behaviorist with the FBI.
Or is he telling the truth? His story, nonetheless admittedly wild, has held up under severe professional scrutiny. Theories have sprung up varying from international spy rings to a gone-girl scenario to a repatriation scheme by the Chinese government.
What makes the most sense in this complex case?
The FBI is pursuing Amber and Melissa’s case as abduction and there is a $10,000 prize for data leading to the solving of this case. If you have any information please call the tip line: 310-477-6565