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Police searching for missing student's boyfriend

BY NICHOLAS MOFFITT | SEPTEMBER 29, 2014 5:00 AM

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Police say a person of interest in the case of a missing Iowa State University student may be in China, potentially complicating the investigation.

Tong Shao, an ISU from the coastal city of Dalian, China, was last seen Sept. 6 in Ames. Her friends received a text message from her stating she was in Iowa City on Sept. 8, according to an Ames police news release.

The Iowa City police now would like to speak with her boyfriend, who has not been identified by name.

But Iowa City police Lt. Mike Brotherton said the police may run into trouble contacting him because they believe he has gone to China.

The United States does not have an extradition treaty with China.

The break in the case came Sept. 26, when police located an unidentified body in a vehicle linked to Shao. Earlier that day, the Ames police released a statement that it was looking for a 1997 Toyota Camry, which they knew Shao had access to and believed to be in Iowa City.

On Sept. 26, an Iowa City police officer patrolling the area around the Dolphin Point Enclave apartment complex discovered the car around 6 p.m., and a warrant was obtained to search the car.
Following the search, a body was discovered in the trunk, Brotherton said.

The body has not been identified, according to the police, and an autopsy was done on Sept. 27, but results have not yet been released. The police said the full results would take a few days to be processed.

Iowa City police could not be reached for further comment, but Brotherton said on Sept. 26 that more information would be released when the autopsy was complete.

One resident of the Dolphin Point Enclave apartments said he was shocked at the news.

“I’ve never seen anything like it before,” Trystian Escher, who lives in an apartment near where the car was found.

Escher said he saw someone move the car that day around 7:15 a.m. but didn’t know much more about the person who moved it because he said it didn’t seem suspicious at the time.

Escher spent the evening of Sept. 26 watching the investigation outside his residence, and he said the smell when they opened the trunk was like nothing he had smelled before.

Prior to the Sept. 26 events, University of Iowa students had used WeChat to spread the news and discuss the situation in hopes of helping the case.  The app is popular among Chinese students and according to the Tencent website, the company that distributes the app, more than 600 million people use it worldwide.

UI freshman Le Xue said the incident has sparked a large social-media conversation.

“We all talk about the news when we can and share stories,” she said.

Shao was studying chemical engineering in her junior year at ISU before her disappearance.

One of Shao’s classmates from high school, Ruizhi Deng, said Shao was a very outgoing and smart girl.

“Her grades were excellent, and she even participated in the Olympic biology competition and won the second prize,” Deng wrote in an email.

She said Shao attended one of the best high schools in Liaoning province that only the top students are able to get into.


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