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Judgment on killer of Chinese student in US suspended

The photo of Shao Tong before she went to the US Photo: YouTube

Li Xiangnan, who allegedly killed her girlfriend Shao Tong in Iowa in September 2014, stood trial on Wednesday at the Intermediate People’s Court in the eastern Chinese city of Wenzhou, his hometown.

During the court trial which lasted one day, Li’s final statement was, “I have never loved any other person like this.” He then burst into tears, kneeling down and kowtowing, according to a reporter from China Press, a Chinese language newspaper based in the US.

The verdict on Li was suspended by the court.

Shao was strangled to death and her body was found in the trunk of a 1997 Toyota Camry near Li’s apartment on September 26, 2014. Beside her in the trunk, there was a 15-pound dumbbell. She died of asphyxia and blunt force trauma. In the backseat of the car, copies of Li’s flight ticket were found.

Li fled to China shortly after the incident and turned himself in to Wenzhou police on May 13, 2015.

According to the testimony of one of Li’s schoolmates, Kwok, he contacted Li in the afternoon of September 5, 2014, and helped him buy a plane ticket back to China. Li denied this on Wednesday.

Li argued during the trial that he bought the ticket just for a holiday back home, and the dumbbell for practicing.

Born in 1995 in northeast city of Dalian in Liaoning province, Shao was studying engineering in the US when she was killed.  

Li and Shao came to know each other in July 2011 while attending an English training center in Beijing in preparation for their overseas study in the US.

Li Xiangnan stands trial on Wednesday at the Intermediate People’s Court in the eastern Chinese city of Wenzhou. Photo:

Question of intention

On December 23, 2015, Wenzhou prosecutors formally charged Li with intentional homicide.

But Li’s lawyer Sheng Shaolin said Wednesday that the case was not one of intentional homicide, and Li was not Shao’s only boyfriend before her death.

Under Chinese criminal law, the sentence for an intentional homicide could range from 10 years to life imprisonment or death penalty.

Two Iowa state detectives and the case prosecutor from Iowa City have traveled to Wenzhou for the trial, according to CNN.

There is no death penalty in Iowa and the lead prosecutor there had expressed hope to Chinese investigators that the case not be pursued as a capital one, CNN reported.

Shao Chunsheng, the victim’s father, and his wife Yang Xue traveled to Wenzhou to attend the trial, according to CNN.

Shao said he had met with Li's parents Tuesday, who begged for his forgiveness and offered to pay compensation for his only daughter's death.

According to a reporter who was at the court, the compensation offered to Shao was roughly 2 million yuan ($307,600).

Sheng said during the trial that Li’s parents had traveled to Dalian three times in order to comfort Shao’s parents.

Li Xiangnan stands trial on Wednesday at the Intermediate People’s Court in the eastern Chinese city of Wenzhou Photo:

Legal cooperation

In October 2014, the US authorities notified the case to the Chinese police through the Chinese Embassy in the US and Consulate General in California. The Chinese police from south China’s Zhejiang province soon began an investigation into the case.

Under Chinese law, when a Chinese citizen commits a crime in a foreign country, Chinese law enforcement agencies are obliged to exercise the jurisdiction, according to an earlier article by the People’s Court of Wenzhou city. Of course, since the case happened in the US, American authorities also had the jurisdiction, but the suspect had already gone back to China, and there is no extradition treaty between China and the US. 

In June 2015, the Ministry of Public Security of China sent an investigation team to the US for a further investigation into the case. With the joint efforts of the Chinese Embassy in Washington and Consulate General in Chicago, the Chinese investigation team and police from Iowa checked the scene and questioned the witnesses. The US police turned relevant evidence to the Chinese investigation team, and it has been proved that Li was in a relationship with Shao when she was killed.

This was reportedly the first case in Wenzhou that involved cooperation between Chinese and US law enforcement agencies.

David Gonzalez, the lead Iowa police investigator for the case, told CNN that Iowa authorities have worked "very, very well together" with Chinese law enforcement at both local and state levels, adding that the important thing was for Li to be brought to justice, no matter whether in the US or China.

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