TARZANA, Calif. — The day after an unidentified woman’s torso was found in a dumpster in Encino, the search continued Thursday for a missing Tarzana woman and her parents. Meanwhile, a neighbor of the family members described what police told her after a search of their home.
The whereabouts of Mei Li Haskell, 37, and her mother and father, Yanxiang Wang, 64, and Gaoshan Li, 71, remain unknown. Haskell’s husband, 35-year-old Samuel Haskell, was arrested after the torso was found Wednesday morning in a parking lot near the intersection of Ventura Boulevard and Rubio Avenue.
The grim discovery led police investigators to a home in the 4100 block of Coldstream Terrace, where the Haskells live with their three children and Mei Li Haskell’s parents.
“Myself and another person who is actually Mei’s friend were the first people that they told, that they did find parts of a body inside the house,” said Elle Benami, referring to what police said after searching the Haskells’ home.
Benami told ABC7 that Mei Li Haskell “really help me keep my sanity” during stay-at-home orders during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Our kids were kind of going crazy, being cooped up at home, having Zoom classes,” she said. “So her boys and my kids would play here in the front yard or backyard.”
Benami described her friend is a “very sweet, generous person, very social. She loved to throw parties — I’d say some of the best parties I’ve been to.”
During those parties, Samuel Haskell “would come in and was smiling and kind of friendly, but not outgoing,” according to the neighbor. “He would sit in the corner and after about 20 minutes, disappear — go to his room, maybe go on a walk.”
After the three family members vanished and the husband was arrested, the Haskells’ three young boys were placed in the care of the county Department of Children and Family Services.
Benami talked about the difficulty of explaining the situation to her children, given the likelihood that the Haskell children would not live in the Tarzana home again.
“To think that my next-door neighbor — a few feet away from my kids’ room — that something like that transpired there is insane to me,” she said.