Nanny's alleged aggressor kept to herself, neighbors say
Quiet, reserved and private is how neighbors describe the 35-year-old Woodbury woman who is facing multiple felony charges including labor trafficking, assault and false imprisonment of her nanny.
Lili Huang, who allegedly attacked and starved a Chinese woman hired as the family's nanny, was charged July 15 after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and police from four cities arrested her and searched her home. The case has spurred national and international media attention, but neighbors near Huang's home said they're in disbelief of the alleged incident.
Police discovered the woman who worked for Huang after she fled the home, according to the criminal complaint filed by the Washington County Attorney's Office. She told police detectives that Huang had threatened to kill her that night and that she was trying to find the airport to return to China.
Homeland Security is treating and caring for the 58-year-old woman.
"Up until that, the worst thing that's happened was the neighbor's house getting egged," said Owen Hunter, who lives a few homes down from Huang on the 9700 block of Wellington Lane. "We're extremely surprised."
Hunter said Huang and her family kept to themselves and didn't interact much with other neighbors.
In a statement following Huang's arrest, Washington County Attorney Pete Orput said "human labor trafficking is a crime that no one can believe exists in their community. It amounts to nothing less than slavery in the 21st century."
Orput's office has been aggressively prosecuting cases involving sex trafficking in recent years. He said that the county will address human labor trafficking in a similar fashion.
Elizabeth Allen, who lives next door to Huang, said she never saw another woman with the Huang's children.
"It's so weird that the kids were never outside—nobody's ever outside there," Allen said. "The part about the nanny was shocking because we literally never saw her."
Aside from a few neighborly hellos, Allen said she hardly knew Huang.
"She was extremely quiet and mostly kept to herself," she said.
After the woman and Huang's family moved from China to Woodbury, she was given a room and promised a $890 monthly salary, which she reportedly never received.
The woman was forced to work up to 18 hours daily, was not allowed to leave the home and was allegedly beaten on several occasions, according to a statement from the county attorney's office.
When she told Huang she wanted to return to China, Huang took away her passport, the statement said. The woman also told law enforcement officials that Huang only allowed her to eat scraps.
"The woman appeared to police to be extraordinarily and unhealthily thin," the report read, noting that she weighed 88 pounds when police discovered her.
Huang has owned a home in Woodbury since 2014, according to property records. She owned the $500,000 house along Wellington Lane for more than a year.
Huang also owned another home in Woodbury along Eagle Valley Drive. Neighbors near that home, also said they didn't notice a second woman.
Allen said Huang told her she and her family kept the house for sentimental reasons.
Huang is scheduled to appear in court Aug. 18.