DES MOINES, Iowa, June 23 (UPI) — A former University of Iowa student from China who killed his girlfriend and fled back to China was sentenced to life in prison there, officials confirmed Wednesday.
Xiangnan Li, 24, was sentenced this week to life in prison in the Chinese city of Wenzhou, said Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness.
In March, Li confessed in a Chinese court he killed 20-year-old Iowa State student Tong Shao, in September 2014 before escaping prosecution and returning to China. Chinese authorities charged him with Shao’s murder last June.
Prosecutors were “very pleased with the verdict and very happy with the cooperation between China and the United States. That’s what he would have gotten if he was convicted here and we’re very pleased that we could work with the Chinese authorities to hold him accountable for Tong Shao’s murder,” said Lyness.
The trial in China was attended by two Iowa state detectives and the case prosecutor from Iowa City. Li could have faced the death penalty, but the court decided for some leniency.
“Li voluntarily gave himself up and has strongly expressed remorse,” the court statement said. The victim’s family had accepted restitution.
Li denied the crime was premeditated and told Chinese prosecutors he bought a one-way plane ticket two days before her death because he was under enormous pressure and wanted to return to China.