'One of Canada's Most Gruesome Killings' Ends in Surprise Verdict

Zhao Li escapes murder ruling, found guilty of manslaughter instead
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 8, 2020 8:35 AM CST
'One of Canada's Most Gruesome Killings' Ends in Surprise Verdict
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Chalirmpoj Pimpisarn)

A two-year-plus trial that drew much media attention has ended in Canada, with a verdict that's shocked many. On Tuesday, a judge on British Columbia's Supreme Court found 59-year-old Zhao Li guilty not of murder, but of manslaughter for killing and dismembering his millionaire cousin, 41-year-old Gang Yuan, in 2015. "Given the brutality of the crime and all the other circumstances, this verdict is surprising," a lawyer representing the estate of Yuan says, calling the demise of Zhao "one of Canada's most gruesome killings," reports the New York Times. The prosecution outlined just how gruesome during the trial, testifying that after Zhao—said to be an experienced hunter, per the South China Morning Post—shot Yuan with a rifle during a struggle in Yuan's driveway, he confessed to cutting up his cousin's body into 108 pieces with a power saw.

"I heard someone talking to me about a bear and how to cut up a bear," he testified during the trial, claiming he'd started to hallucinate, per the Times. Justice Terence Schultes wasn't convinced, however, that Zhao had meant to kill Yuan—and in Canada, a murder verdict requires a belief beyond a reasonable doubt that a suspect had intent to kill. Zhao's defense team painted him as a "normal, healthy" man who was much smaller than Yuan, but who'd snapped after Yuan, a reported womanizer with a parade of dozens of girlfriends, had asked if he could marry Zhao's 26-year-old actress daughter. A sentencing hearing will take place next week, at which Zhao, who was also found guilty of "interfering with human remains," could get life behind bars, though the SCMP says that's unlikely; the mandatory minimum sentence is between four and seven years. Zhao has already been in prison for five years. (More manslaughter stories.)

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