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Lyness responds to Li sentencing

Xiangnan Li appeared in court in China March 23, 2016 and admitted to strangling Tong Shao, his...
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.(KCRG)
Published: Jun. 23, 2016 at 7:10 PM CDT
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Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness says she's pleased with the sentencing of a former University of Iowa student who killed his girlfriend in 2014.

A Chinese judge sentenced Xiangnan Li to life in prison yesterday. Li confessed to killing Tong Shao, an Iowa State student, who was also from China.

Police found her body stuffed in a suitcase in the trunk of his car. Li left that car at his apartment in Iowa City before fleeing to China. Authorities in Iowa City had hoped to prosecute the case in the U.S., but eventually turned over their evidence to authorities in China.

A CNN report says Li may not spend his entire life in prison. Under Chinese law, life imprisonment can be commuted to no less than 13 years in jail.

Lyness says she's confident Li will remain locked up for a long time.

"I would trust that he is going to be in for sometime. I think that the fact that they are saying life imprisonment, I do think that that has some weight, because it is not saying he has 15 years. It's not saying he is going to get out at a definite time. I'm not sure what their proceedings are, how they deal with parole, who makes that determination, things like that, but at least at this point we're looking at life imprisonment," Janet Lyness, Johnson County Attorney, said.

Li could have faced the death penalty in China, but Lyness says she asked Chinese prosecutors not to push for it. That's because Iowa doesn't have such a punishment.