Jennifer Pan in the poster for What Jennifer Did

Why the Case at the Center of ‘What Jennifer Did’ Is More Complex Than You Might Think

There’s a new Netflix documentary, What Jennifer Did, topping the streamers chart, which is sure to have true crime enthusiasts questioning what did Jennifer do and, perhaps more importantly, why?

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The chilling documentary tells the story of Jennifer Pan and her family. In 2010, the Pan family experienced a home invasion that left Jennifer’s mother, Bich Ha Pan, dead and her father, Huei Hann Pan, in a coma. Viewers will be instantly sucked into What Jennifer Did as it opens with the shocking 911 call Jennifer made to report the attack on her parents. The attack occurred late on November 8, 2010, when three armed hitmen entered the family’s house. They demanded money before killing Bich Ha and attempting to murder Huei Hann. Although Jennifer was allegedly tied up, she was not harmed and was able to make the 911 call that the documentary opens with. It sets the stage for the dark and unexpected turn the case would soon take.

As the investigation proceeded, detectives and police quickly honed in on a surprising suspect, Jennifer. It was hard to believe that this 24-year-old, who had been academically gifted as a child and gave the appearance of the perfect daughter, could be involved in a gruesome murder. However, from the onset, investigators were suspicious of her, as it made no sense why home invaders would leave a witness to murder alive and tie her so loosely she was quickly able to free herself and call 911.

When Huei Hann awoke, he confirmed investigators’ suspicions when he recalled seeing Jennifer speaking with the home invaders and walking around the house with them unbound. Soon, Jennifer would confess to hiring a hitman to kill her parents in a plot she cooked up with her boyfriend, Daniel Wong.

Why did Jennifer Pan commit murder?

Jennifer was ultimately convicted of murder, attempted murder, and conspiracy to commit murder. Wong, hitman David Mylvaganam, getaway driver Eric Shawn “Sniper” Carty, and co-conspirator Lenford Roy Crawford were all convicted as well.

While What Jennifer Did goes deep into the investigation and murder plot, some viewers may still be confused about why she did it. After all, much of the documentary’s commentary comes from those who worked on the case or family acquaintances. Viewers never actually hear from Jennifer or her co-conspirators, raising questions about whether the full story is told.

The official motive prosecutors argued for Jennifer’s actions was retaliation against her strict parents and hopes of an inheritance of $500,00. Meanwhile, Jennifer arguably started on the path to murder years earlier when she began constructing a complicated web of lies that would clearly, one day, come crashing down around her. Her lies started in high school when she dealt with her parents’ pressure by lying about her grades. However, her lies took a more serious turn when she falsely told her parents she was attending college at Ryerson despite her offer being rescinded for poor grades.

For years, she pretended to go to college by forging transcriptions and scholarships, collecting school supplies, and pretending to go to class. In reality, she would go to the library, work odd jobs, or see her secret boyfriend, Wong, whom her parents disapproved of. Soon, Jennifer faked transferring to the University of Toronto, volunteering for blood drives and studying pharmacology. Her lies soon also extended to Wong, who tried to break things off with her due to her parents’ strictness and began dating another woman. Jennifer responded by lying to him that his new girlfriend had orchestrated an attack on her and sent her a bullet in the mail.

When her parents discovered the truth, they tried to force her to fix her life by cutting contact with Wong and taking a high school class in hopes of reapplying to college. However, at this point, she and Wong resumed their relationship and she became more desperate to break free of her parents, leading the pair to slowly formulate their murder plot.

Some paint Jennifer as a compulsive liar who murdered her parents out of greed and anger for their strictness, while others have come to view her case more sympathetically, especially those who have grown up with parents who put an unbearable amount of pressure on them. To say her parents were “strict” was an understatement. Even as a legal adult, she was forbidden from dating, drinking, going to clubs, or hanging out with friends, with her parents insisting she had to successfully complete university and follow their dreams of becoming a pharmacist. Those who knew Jennifer as a child confirmed that her parents were more like tyrants and treated her terribly. (Not that that justifies murder, obviously, but it offers important context.)

Many insist that she should have simply left. However, few seem to understand that controlling parents often successfully block their children from achieving any level of independence. She was an isolated young woman and the child of immigrants without a college degree, who had to sneak around and avoid her parents’ wrath constantly. Given her isolation and oppression, it’s not surprising she developed an unhealthy attachment to Wong and a compulsive lying tendency to avoid trouble.

In the end, she still chose the most extreme and unforgivable route by committing murder. However, being able to feel some sympathy and understanding of her desperation could help others in the future by highlighting the damaging impact of emotional abuse and the importance of financial independence and mental health resources.

(featured image: Netflix)


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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.