Murder charge: Little Canada man ‘choked out’ sex worker in Eagan hotel room

A Little Canada man was charged Monday with strangling a woman who was working as a prostitute in an Eagan hotel room this month, prosecutors say.

Philip Jedidiah Wong, 25, admitted to police he paid the woman for sex Oct. 12 but said he didn’t learn she was dead until someone from her “organization” called and told him, according to the criminal complaint charging him with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter.

Philip Jedidiah Wong (Courtesy of the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office)

Wong said he did not believe she was dead and thought it was a scam and they were trying to get more money from him, the complaint says. However, Wong’s roommate told investigators he said he “choked her out” after she tried to blackmail him.

According to Eagan police and the complaint:

The woman, identified as 53-year-old Jianqin Zhang, was discovered dead Oct. 12 by a housekeeper and Zhang’s friend at Microtel Inn & Suites, east of Interstate 35E and west of Lexington Avenue.

The Hennepin County medical examiner’s office found hemorrhaging on Zhang’s neck, along with petechiae — small spots caused by burst blood vessels — on her eyes, mouth, lips and scalp. A toxicology report did not detect the presence of controlled substances.

A friend told police that Zhang was a sex worker and that she checked on her because the “organization” had not heard from her for a while after meeting with a client. The friend gave police a phone number of the client, later identified as Wong.

Video surveillance from the hotel shows Wong entering the hotel around 2:54 p.m. wearing an Atlanta Falcons hat, and leaving the hotel about an hour later.

Zhang was the only registered guest of the room, which she had reserved from Sept. 30 to Oct. 14. After a search warrant was executed on the room, police found several cellphones, used and unused condoms, a locked wallet, a SIM card taped to a white card, bloody sheets, pill bottles, food, clothing and an Atlanta Falcons hat.

One of the phones belonged to Zhang, and an examination showed a message was sent to the “organization” at 3:39 p.m. in Mandarin. When translated in English, the message said, “walk.” She stopped answering her phone around 3:45 p.m.

Police searched Wong’s apartment and found clothing that appeared to match those he was seen wearing on video surveillance. His cell phone was also seized.

Wong gave police a statement, saying he responded to an online ad for a massage and cuddle. He said he met Zhang in her room, paying her $200 for a massage, then another $50 for sex. He said he took a shower before leaving. He realized on his way home that he forgot his hat, but did not go back for it.

In her interview with police, Wong’s roommate said he told her Zhang said she had a hidden camera in the room and wanted more money from him. “In response, (Wong) ‘choked her out,’ but he believed she was still breathing,” the complaint states. “(Wong) then searched the room for the hidden camera, and left when (the victim’s) phone rang.”

Wong also wrote his roommate two notes. In the first one, he asked her to forgive him and said he doesn’t know what the “future holds for him or how long the trial will be,” the complaint says. “In the second note Wong asked (his roommate) to meet him one last time, or to at least call him.”

On Thursday, in a follow-up interview with police, Wong said he didn’t have anything to add from his earlier statement. He was arrested and booked into the Dakota County jail.

Police learned Wong had met with several family members at his parents’ home eight days after the murder. A family member told an investigator Friday that Wong said he probably would be arrested soon and he was not sure if it would be voluntary or involuntary manslaughter. “(Wong) told his family members he was with someone and there was an altercation; however, when he left she was alive,” the complaint says.

Wong made an initial appearance on the charges Monday. He remained jailed Monday in lieu of $750,000 bail ahead of his next court hearing scheduled for Nov. 9.

His attorney, when reached by phone Monday, declined to comment on the case.

Minnesota court records show only two petty misdemeanor driving offenses against Wong.

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