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Iowa investigators 'confident' Chinese authorities will bring justice in Tong Shao's case

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Iowa City investigators say they are "confident" Chinese authorities will bring justice to Tong Shao's family. 

Xiangnan Li surrendered to Chinese authorities in mid-May.

Li will be prosecuted there, he's accused of strangling Shao, last September.

Shao's body was found in the trunk of her Toyota Camry outside Li's apartment in Iowa City.

"I don't know if this has ever happened in the state of Iowa," said Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness when talking about Li fleeing the country.

Lyness says this nine-month, multi-country investigation was complicated from the very start.

Iowa investigators say Li was at one point intimate with Shao, who was a former Iowa State student.

Their investigations revealed Li strangled Shao on September 7, and  booked a flight back to China the same day .

Authorities didn't find her body weeks later, September 26.

"He had fled the country prior to us even finding the body, or at the same time we were finding the body he was on his way back to China and really out of our reach," said Sgt. Zach Diersen with Iowa City Police.

Diersen has been on top of the Tong Shao investigation since the case opened.

He says Li will not be returning to U.S. soil for trial, because there's no extradition treaty between the two nations.

However Diersen says he is confident Chinese investigators will bring justice.

"That was the purpose for their delegations of investigators and prosecutors coming over to work with us a few weeks ago," said Diersen.

In early June, seven Chinese investigators were in Iowa working with Iowa investigators, visiting the crime scene and gathering the facts and details so they can prosecute Li.

Lyness says Chinese prosecutors were very impressed with the way our lead investigators handled analyzing the details in this case .

"That was actually kind of their parting words to us that 'We want to make sure Tong Shao has justice,'" said Lyness. "I would say that when we started the process, I was very leery and I really questions rather this would really actually happen and rather it was work making the efforts to request them to work on this.

Looking at the criminal law over in China, if Li is convicted he could be looking at anywhere from 10 years behind bars to the death penalty.

Since Iowa's law does now have the death penalty, Lyness asked Chinese prosecutors that death not be considered if Li is convicted.

"From my understanding the consequences in China are very similar to those in the United states," said Diersen. "It's not uncommon that they would be prosecuted for the crimes that they committed here or in another country,  in their own country."

Once Li's trial is underway though, Diersen says it's likely two Iowa detectives will be sent to China to sit in court.

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