On Sept. 17, 2014, the Ames Police Department received a report that Iowa State University student Tong Shao, a Chinese international student, was missing. On Sept. 26, 2014, the Iowa City Police Department (ICPD) located a Toyota Camry belonging to Shao parked in the area of 2401 Hwy 6 East in Iowa City, Iowa. During the initial investigation, a body was recovered from the trunk of the Camry and later was positively identified as Shao. At that time, Xiangnan Li was residing at 2401 Hwy 6 East and was identified as a person of interest in the matter. Investigators believed Li had information regarding the circumstances surrounding the death of Shao. Li was a Chinese international student at the University of Iowa and known to be in a relationship with Shao. 

Over the course of the subsequent investigation, the ICPD was able to determine that Li had returned to China. The ICPD contacted the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, whereupon the Criminal Investigation Bureau of China initiated an investigation. According to the Bureau, police of Zhejiang Province were assigned to investigate allegations surrounding the murder of Shao. After efforts to locate Li were made by the Chinese authorities, Li surrendered himself to the police of Wenzhou on May 13, 2015 and was detained on the same day.

In early June, local and federal law enforcement authorities invited the Criminal Investigation Bureau of China to send a team of investigators to Iowa City to work in conjunction with the ICPD, the Ames Police Department and the Johnson County Attorney’s Office. Evidence and information pertinent to the investigation were submitted to the Criminal Investigation Bureau of China. On June 19, 2015, the People’s Prosecutor of Wenzhou, China, arrested Li for the crime of intentional homicide. 

According to the Criminal Investigation Bureau of China, the investigation showed that on Sept. 7, 2014, Li killed Shao and fled the United States to China. The Bureau further reported that according to Chinese law based on Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), “the 7th item sets the rule that the Chinese apply the law to its citizens even if he or she commits a crime abroad. The 232nd item of the Criminal Law of the PRC reads the intentional killer will be punished up to the death sentence, life imprisonment or imprisonment over ten years. The law further reads that if circumstances are relatively minor, the offender shall be sentenced to a fixed-term of imprisonment spanning from three to ten years.”

The Criminal Investigation Bureau of China released a statement indicating that in recent years, thanks to strengthened cooperation between the Chinese police and law enforcement from other countries, defendants in several violent cases have been brought to justice. Further, the Bureau stated that they will continue to cooperate with law enforcement officials, not only in the United States, but other foreign countries, in an effort to prosecute Chinese citizens accused of committing crimes abroad.

The following agencies assisted the ICPD with this investigation:

  • The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation
  • The Johnson County Attorney’s Office
  • The Johnson County Medical Examiner’s Office
  • The University of Iowa Police Department
  • The Ames Police Department
  • Iowa State University
  • The Iowa State University Police Department  
  • The United States Department of Justice
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation

Questions regarding this release should be directed to Sergeant Zach Diersen of the Iowa City Police Department at 319-356-5294 or zach-diersen@iowa-city.org

Date of publication

Monday, June 29, 2015