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Police ID body as missing ISU student

BY NICHOLAS MOFFITT | SEPTEMBER 30, 2014 5:00 AM

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While Iowa City police have identified the body found in a trunk of a Toyota Camry as that of missing Iowa State University student Tong Shao, 20, the investigation is running into a few obstacles.

After an autopsy on Sept. 27, the Iowa City police released a statement Monday that said, “through investigative means, the body located in the vehicle has been positively identified as Tong Shao.”

The person of interest related to the case has been identified as Xiangnan Li, a student in the UI Tippie College of Business.

Li is originally from Wenzhou, China, according to his Facebook page, and police stated on Sept. 26 after the incident they believe he has flown back to China but at this point have not been able to confirm that.

Joe Brennan, the UI vice president for Strategic Communication, said Li is a finance major and began attending the UI in the fall of 2013.

Iowa City police have been in contact with Chinese government officials, said police Sgt. Scott Gaarde, but he declined to say what their involvement has been so far with the case.

The United States currently has no extradition treaty with China.

Wenfang Tang, the UI Stanley Hua Hsia professor of political science and international studies, said extradition may prove to be tough for U.S. officials, but it is still in the realm of possibility.

“I think it is possible China would [extradite], if the U.S. says we’ll work with you if you work with us,” he said.

Tang said China is eager to get some allegedly corrupt politicians back from the United States, and if some sort of deal were set up, it would be easier to get Li back.

Another way he said it would be possible to extradite Li is if public opinion is sympathetic to Shao’s family.

“The family must be really eager to see what happened,” he said. “If they gather public sympathy in China for the government to cooperate with the investigation, it’s possible.”

The body was located in the trunk of the vehicle after authorities obtained a search warrant for the car.

Shao’s vehicle, which had Kentucky license plates, was discovered by an Iowa City police officer at Dolphin Lake Point Enclave apartments, 2401 U.S. Highway 6 E., on Sept. 26.

Shao was reported missing on Sept. 17 by her friends at Iowa State, said Commander Geoff Huff of the Ames police. The last contact from her was a text message sent to friends on Sept. 8 that stated she and the person of interest were going to Minnesota.

Ruizhi Deng, a high-school classmate of Shao’s, said Shao enjoyed traveling and had heard from friends that she liked to go away for long periods of time by herself.

“She was not [a] disciplined child because she often forgot to do homework and liked doing [things that] made her parents worried like walking alone in the midnight without telling others,” Deng wrote in an email. “But because of her special personality, she was very popular among classmates.”

Huff said the Ames police have mostly handed off the investigation to the Iowa City police.

The Iowa City police have also worked with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, the Johnson County Medical Examiner’s Department, the University of Iowa police, the County Attorney’s Office, and the FBI.

The Iowa City police are investigating the cause of death as suspicious.

Gaarde said the body did have some “condition issues” because the fact that it had been in the trunk of the Camry for a period of time.

The police statement said the cause and manner of her death is not being released at this time but will be released with the full autopsy report.

Mike Hensch, the administrator of the Johnson County Medical Examiner’s Department, said the report could take six to eight weeks to be released.

“You have to wait for the toxicology report of various body fluids, histology, radiological, or other special metabolic chemical testing, which can take from six to eight weeks,” he said.

County, state, and national officials are not the only agencies involved in the case.

UI spokesman Tom Moore told The Daily Iowan the university will work with law-enforcement officials.

“This is a matter that is being investigated by law-enforcement agencies,” he said. “As [police] ask for our help and our assistance, we [the University of Iowa] provide it.”


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