Back From China, Authorities Reveal New Details in Tong Shao Murder Case

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Authorities say the body of a 20-year-old Iowa State student from China was badly beaten, decaying and stuffed in a suitcase when they made the discovery in an Iowa City parking lot in September 2014.

Xiangnan Li appeared in court in China March 23, 2016 and admitted to strangling Tong Shao, his then-girlfriend, in an argument in September 2014 and then fleeing to China.

The new evidence was revealed at a news conference Monday afternoon in Iowa City. Investigators say the evidence was presented in a Chinese courtroom last week where Xiangnan Li stood trial for the alleged murder of his former girlfriend Tong Shao. Authorities say Li killed Shao, then fled to China where he hid out until turning himself in to Chinese authorities last summer.

Li is hoping for a lesser sentence that could range from 20 years to the death penalty, according to local investigators who traveled to China to observe the one-day trial. A judge has six months to announce the sentence.

Authorities say Shao died of suffocation, but don't know exactly when she died. Investigators say it's possible Shao suffocated in the trunk of her car after being beaten and stuffed in a suitcase. Authorities said Monday that Li originally planned to use weights to sink the suitcase in the Skunk River, but they believe he changed his plan because the water was too shallow.

Authorities said Monday Li has not contested that he is responsible for Shao's suffocation, but that he is arguing he never laid out a plan to kill her.

Authorities say Li is arguing this was a crime of passion after he discovered Shao no longer wanted to be with him. Authorities say Li could face a lesser sentence and avoid death because he has been cooperative since turning himself in.


Xiangnan Li in court in China


Xiangnan Li appeared in court in China March 23, 2016 and admitted to strangling Tong Shao, his then-girlfriend, in an argument in September 2014 and then fleeing to China.
Xiangnan Li appeared in court in China March 23, 2016 and admitted to strangling Tong Shao, his then-girlfriend, in an argument in September 2014 and then fleeing to China.
Xiangnan Li appeared in court in China March 23, 2016 and admitted to strangling Tong Shao, his then-girlfriend, in an argument in September 2014 and then fleeing to China.