Episode 002: Amber Aiaz & Melissa Fu

July 26, 2021

In November 2019, a mother and daughter disappear without a trace. The obvious suspect has an unbelievable story to tell. Almost two years later, the question remains: Where are Amber and Melissa?

Episode Media
Amber Aiaz (L) and Melissa Fu (R) circa 2019. (FBI)
Police crime scene photo (Irvine Police Department)
Episode Sources
Episode Transcript

Welcome back to Bite-Sized Crime! This week I am bringing you a case of a mother and daughter who vanished without a trace in 2019. A quick disclaimer before we begin: There are some conflicting details between American and Chinese news sources, but I have done my best to sift through the information and bring you the facts as they have been reported. I will also mainly be using their American names, since that is how they are referred to by law enforcement.

The story begins with Wu Mei Yi, also known as Amber Aiaz. Originally from Dalian, China, Amber married and moved to Chicago in 2005. There, she gave birth to her daughter, Fu Hao, also known as Melissa Fu, in 2007. Unfortunately, Amber’s husband passed away from cancer shortly after Melissa’s birth. Amber then traveled back to China to raise Melissa among her own family. When it became clear that she wouldn’t be able to afford schooling for Melissa in China, Amber chose to return to the United States, settling in Las Vegas. There, she began a successful business as a seafood grocer, making many contacts in the local Asian community.

Around 2017, Amber entered into a relationship with a Chinese man named Zhang. It is unclear whether he and Amber ever officially married; American news outlets refer to him as Amber’s husband, but Chinese sources consistently call him her boyfriend. Either way, Zhang and Amber’s relationship was rocky – they broke up in 2018 but soon reunited and the family moved to Irvine, California the following year.

In Irvine, Amber continued to grow her business, connecting with customers through WeChat, a popular Chinese-owned messaging app. Amber frequently traveled between Irvine and Las Vegas, transporting fresh goods and making deliveries to her customers in the Asian community, often accompanied by her now 12-year-old daughter.

On the afternoon of November 22, 2019, Amber had made one such trip to Las Vegas and was on her way home to Irvine with a carload of produce to sell. Melissa and Zhang were at home in their apartment awaiting her return. According to Zhang, someone knocked on the door at 4:30pm. When he answered it, he encountered an unfamiliar man and woman of Chinese descent. He noticed that the woman had something in her hand. Zhang then claimed that he felt something wet on his face right before he collapsed, unconscious. 

When he woke up hours later, Melissa was gone. Bloodstains covered the carpet, and there was a bloody handprint on the wall in the kitchen. Amber’s Ford Explorer was parked in its usual spot, indicating that she had made it home from her trip, but Amber was nowhere to be seen. The only thing Zhang found was a handwritten note on lined notebook paper. The note, written in Chinese, gave specific instructions for Zhang not to contact the police. Amber and Melissa were okay and would be home in a few days if he did what the note’s author said – clean up the apartment and just act normal.

Zhang followed the supposed kidnapper’s instructions and cleaned up the bloody mess, replacing the stained carpet and painting over the handprint in the kitchen. For a whole week, Zhang carried on as normal, contacting Melissa’s school to inform them that she was home sick. He posed as Amber on WeChat, selling the food she had purchased and making deliveries on his own. When confused customers asked about Amber’s whereabouts, Zhang would say that Amber was busy at home and couldn’t make the deliveries herself.

Meanwhile, Zhang continued to receive handwritten notes slipped under the apartment door. Each note said the same thing – Amber and Melissa are fine, you will see them soon, just keep acting normal, don’t call the police. Five days after the disappearance, Zhang received a note telling him to leave town for two days. He stayed with a relative in Las Vegas, and when he returned, another note was waiting: “They are fine. Clean the carpet again. Clean the house again. You will see them Monday.”

However, Amber and Melissa did not reappear as the note promised. When several days passed with no new notes, Zhang finally decided to go to the police. Amber and Melissa had now been missing for ten days.

The timeline here is muddy. According to Zhang, Amber and Melissa disappeared on November 22. But family members say they communicated with Amber on WeChat on the 23rd, and several of Amber’s friends say she was still chatting with them up through the 25th. One Chinese source claims that a friend spoke with Amber on the phone on the 25th, but that has not been confirmed. Again, Zhang claims that he was posing as Amber on WeChat in an effort to appear normal, so there could be a simple explanation to this confusion. But the fact remains that no one has physically seen Amber or Melissa since November 22, 2019. Ten days later, on December 2nd, Zhang went to the police with his incredible tale. 

Naturally, police found Zhang’s story to be suspicious, to say the least. Why would two strangers kidnap a mother and daughter in broad daylight and leave behind a potential witness? Why were Amber and Melissa targeted? And why did Zhang wait so long to come forward if he was truly concerned about his wife and stepdaughter? 

On December 4, the Irvine Police Department issued a press release asking for the public’s help in locating Amber and Melissa. In the meantime, police were actively investigating Zhang. According to police reports, Zhang admitted that his story seemed impossible, but he insisted that he did not hurt Amber or Melissa, nor was he involved in their disappearance. Police interviewed him for hours and even set up around-the-clock surveillance for the next six weeks. While police followed him, Zhang carried on with his normal and predictable schedule – shopping, jogging, even taking smoke breaks. Officers said that he didn’t do anything even remotely suspicious the entire time they watched him.

Irvine Police Detective Supervisor Mark Andreozzi told the Los Angeles Times that Zhang was “100% cooperative” and even helped them find the evidence that he had destroyed while following the alleged kidnapper’s instructions. Forensic technicians were able to peel up the replaced carpet and discovered blood pooling in the padding underneath. Tests later determined that the blood belonged to Amber.

Although Zhang cooperated fully, police were still suspicious. Neighbors at Zhang’s apartment complex recalled seeing him carrying a large cooler and a storage container outside. Zhang said that he was cleaning out his apartment just like the kidnappers had instructed. He also had a jagged cut on his left thumb – he hadn’t bothered to conceal it from the officers and said that it was a result of his knife slipping while he was cutting meat. He even showed the officers how it happened.

Zhang seemed to have an answer for everything, but police were convinced that the most bizarre aspect of Zhang’s story would surely be his downfall: The mysterious liquid that he claimed had been sprayed on him by his attackers. There was no way something like that existed outside of spy movies. Surprisingly, it did exist. Investigators discovered an anesthetic spray called halothane that could knock someone out almost immediately. Interestingly, halothane is not available in the United States, but it is available in China.

In January 2020, Zhang willingly submitted to a polygraph and passed with no signs of deception. He was even studied by an FBI behaviorist. After weeks of surveillance and over 40 hours of interrogations, Zhang’s story remained the same. Police realized that they couldn’t tie him to the disappearance of his wife and stepdaughter. And honestly, if Zhang hadn’t told police about Amber and Melissa, they may never have known they were missing at all. He also could have easily left the country at any time – no extradition treaty exists between China and the United States.

So if Zhang’s story checks out and he really did have nothing to do with Amber and Melissa’s disappearance, what actually happened? There are many theories floating around, but several stood out to me as I researched this case.

First, if we assume that Zhang is telling the truth, Amber and Melissa were abducted by a man and a woman of Chinese descent in their mid-40s. The abductors knocked Zhang unconscious, attacked Melissa, then waited for Amber to come home before attacking her. Then they absconded with Melissa and Amber before Zhang woke up. The real question here is why? What motive would they have for kidnapping a grocer and her daughter?

Investigators believe that something in Amber’s past may have caught up with her. She had had several entanglements with men in China and Las Vegas, but she was also a habitual exaggerator, particularly when it came to money. Amber had convinced Zhang that she had millions of dollars in investments, but when police proved to him that she was broke, Zhang was shocked. Multiple people interviewed by police indicated that Amber had told them she was quite wealthy. Police also suggested that some people were angry that Amber had swindled them in the past. It’s possible that someone kidnapped Amber and Melissa in the hopes that they could extort money from the family – money that didn’t actually exist.

The second theory is that Amber took Melissa and left California to escape Zhang in a “Gone Girl” type scenario. Amber and Zhang had a difficult relationship, so it’s possible that Amber felt the need to leave without telling Zhang where she was going. However, both Amber’s and Melissa’s passports were left in the apartment, and none of Amber’s bank accounts in America or China have been touched since the disappearance. There is no evidence that the two have entered China, and it would be very difficult for them to hide in the United States for very long with an entire team of FBI agents on the case. They have also had zero contact with family or friends since November 2019.

The third theory, of course, is that Zhang killed Amber and Melissa and is simply a master manipulator. Zhang may have been angry at Amber for lying to him about her supposed fortune and could have just been feigning shock when investigators told him she was penniless. Could he have staged the whole thing and kept up a flawless web of lies for the past year and a half? It’s possible, although Irvine Police and the FBI don’t seem to think so. As impossible as it may seem, Zhang’s story has held up under intense professional scrutiny.

Naturally, there are many more wild theories circulating among internet detectives – everything from international spy rings to the Chinese government kidnapping Amber and Melissa in some sort of repatriation scheme. 

Regardless, the FBI is pursuing this case as a kidnapping and has placed Amber and Melissa on their “Most Wanted Kidnappings/Missing Persons” list. They are offering a $10,000 reward for information that helps solve this crime.

Amber Aiaz, also known as Wu Mei Yi, is now 36 years old. She is 5 feet 9 inches tall, 180 pounds, with medium length black hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a black shirt, black vest, fitted black pants with white writing, and light colored shoes.  

Melissa Fu, also known as Fu Hao, is now 14 years old. She is 5 feet 11 inches tall, 200 pounds, with medium length dark brown hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a black tracksuit.

The FBI is also seeking two suspects in the alleged abduction. The abductors are described as both being in their forties and of Chinese descent. The woman was 5 feet 8 inches tall with an average build, and black hair pulled back in a bun. The man was 5 feet 10 inches tall and about 190 pounds, with an average build and short black hair. They may have been driving a black Cadillac.

If you have any information regarding the disappearance of Melissa Fu and Amber Aiaz, please contact the Los Angeles FBI Field Office at 310-477-6565. You can also submit an anonymous tip online at tips.fbi.gov. 

As a member of the true crime community, please share Amber and Melissa’s story on social media and help their family find justice. You never know who might have the missing piece.

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