Man accused of attacking stepdaughter with meat cleaver pleads not guilty

Man accused of attacking stepdaughter with meat cleaver pleads not guilty

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The man accused of beating his 8-year-old stepdaughter with a meat cleaver back in 2012 has pleaded not guilty.

Li Chen is charged with 8 counts of child cruelty in the 3rd degree and attempted murder. Officials said he beat the 8-year-old, penetrating her skull and leaving her temporarily blind.

Li Chen's wife didn't want to talk on camera, but off camera, she repeated what she told WTOC in 2013.

"I want. I need my husband coming home," she said. 

Li Chen's attorney wants the attempted murder case moved to a diversion program meant to keep the mentally ill out of jail and get them medical treatment.

"I do have concerns, based upon the nature of the alleged offense," Judge Louisa Abbot said.

Li Chen has been behind bars since November, when police said he attacked his stepdaughter out of the blue, as she ate dinner. No motive for the crime has been released. 

"My daughter, she need a daddy. She no more scared of daddy. I never scared of my husband," Lisa Chen said in 2013.

Statements like that worry Cheryl Branch, director of Safe Shelter, Savannah's center for domestic violence services.

"As a woman, your first thought is where is your maternal instinct? Why aren't you doing something to protect your child," Branch said. 

But Branch said it's hard for someone from a safe and stable background to wrap their head around the dynamics of a violent home.

"We don't know what her fears are. And I have to respect a victim's fears. I don't know what that's like," she said. 

Branch said language barriers, fear of deportation and fear of law enforcement can stop immigrants from reporting abuse.

According to the indictment, Chen beat the girl in front of other children. His next court date is scheduled for June.

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