Details emerge about relationship between former ISU student and boyfriend


The boyfriend of Tong Shao, the ISU student who went missing last fall and was later found dead, was arrested in China.

Makayla Tendall

Xiangnan Li, a Chinese exchange student at the University of Iowa and the main person of interest in the death of Iowa State University student Tong Shao, overheard Shao complaining about him to another man, according to a search warrant affidavit.

Shao, a 20-year-old ISU student, was reported missing to the Ames Police Department by her friends at Iowa State on Sept. 17, 2014, after they had not heard from her since Sept. 8.

Li was named the main person of interest after Shao’s body was found in the trunk of her Toyota Camry where Li lived at Dolphin Lake Point Enclave in Iowa City on Sept. 26.

Shao’s friends said she had gone to Iowa City to visit Li, her boyfriend, for the weekend of Sept. 6-7.

A text message from Li’s phone was sent to Shao’s friends in Ames on Sept. 8. The message said Shao was texting from Li’s phone because her phone was dead and that she was taking a bus to Minnesota to visit friends while Li flew back to China for an emergency. The message said that Shao would keep Li’s phone with her.

Police were not able to find any records that showed Shao took a bus to Minnesota, according to the affidavit.

After Shao’s friends and family were not able to contact her for a week, they reported her as missing.

Li flew out of the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, airport Sept. 8 and arrived in China on Sept. 10, according to the affidavit. However, phone records show that the text sent from Li’s phone to Shao’s friends was sent while he was on a layover in Chicago, which conflicts with the text message that said Shao would keep his phone and that they were in Iowa City, according to the affidavit.

Detectives spoke with Karen Yang, who was a friend of Li’s and normally spoke to him once or twice a week.

According to the affidavit, Li called Yang unexpectedly Sept. 3, saying he was upset after just having called Shao over the phone.

“Shao must have accidentally answered her phone but did not realize it,” the affidavit said. “The line remained open for about 30 minutes, and during this time, Li listened in to the conversation Shao was having with another male.”

Li had told Yang that the other male was a new friend of Shao’s.

“Li heard Shao complaining about Li and saying things about him that were not nice, although Yang could not provide police with specific details,” according to the affidavit.

On Sept. 9, Yang contacted Li again to ask how his relationship was with Shao. Li responded that things were “fine for now,” according to the affidavit.

Li’s friends or family have not heard from him since his plane arrival in China on Sept. 10, according to the affidavit.