The man charged with the murder of an Iowa State University student will face trial in China and not in the United States.  The Chinese government announced that Xiangnan Li, 23, has been accused of the murder of his girlfriend Tong Shao, 20.

Tong Shao was studying engineering and her boyfriend, Xiangnan Li was studying business at the University of Iowa.  Authorities said that Li was the last one to see her alive.  He bought a one-way ticket to China shortly after the murder.

The investigation stalled because there is no standing extradition treaty between the U.S. and China.  Iowa prosecutors said they didn’t know what to do because there was little precedent for a case where a foreign national flees prosecution for murdering another foreign national within the country.

“It’s certainly been an interesting process,” said Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness, the lead prosecutor in Iowa, “China would not send him back for us to prosecute him domestically.  The only other option the Department of Justice had for us was to ask the Chinese government to prosecute him.”

Lyness credited a media interview with Shao’s father as the jump-start of the case.  In the interview with CNN, Chunsheng Shao said, “What has she done to deserve such a crime? Why?  We’ve given all our love to our daughter. I feel my life is meaningless after losing her.”  She was his only child. He went on to say that authorities were doing nothing to solve his daughter’s case.

Iowa prosecutors working through the U.S. Department of Justice made a request for Chinese investigators to come to Iowa, so that they could show them the evidence. According to the Chinese authorities, Li turned himself in at a police department in Wenzhou.

Lyness said, “We felt fairly confident that the investigators we met with were very interested in pursuing the case.  But obviously we had no guarantee what would happen once they got back to China.  It’s a relief…”

There is no death penalty in Iowa, but that cannot be said about China.  Lyness said that the investigators expressed that they did not agree with the case being capital in nature and hoped that Chinese investigators would not pursue it that way.

“They couldn’t give me assurances,” she said.

Lyness said she hopes to attend the trial in China, “It would be a very good educational opportunity to go over there and see how the Chinese justice system works.”

Shao was reported missing on September 17, 2014.  On September 26th, her body was discovered stuffed in the trunk of her car.  Li, described at the time as a person of interest, was sought for questioning, but he had already fled back to China.

“I’m truly grateful that Chinese and U.S. authorities came together and solved the case eventually,” Shao’s father told CNN.


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