MONTREAL — After practically three many years of masking weird and sensational crimes, I believed I had seen all of it.
There was the case of Seemona Sumasar, a petite girl from Queens, N.Y., who was framed by her rapist for armed robberies that by no means came about, touchdown her in jail for seven months.
There was the phenomenon of “blood feuds” in Albania the place victims’ households avenged the slayings of their kin by killing any of the killers’ male relations.
And now a Canadian crime has joined this pantheon of fact-is-stranger-than-fiction tales: an immigrant who killed his millionaire boss, who additionally occurs to be a relative, at his hillside Vancouver mansion earlier than chopping him into 108 items.
Final week, the case ended with a stunning twist: The killer, Zhao Li, 60, was sentenced by a Vancouver courtroom to 10 years and 6 months in jail, prompting criticism that the punishment didn’t match the crime.
As it’s, authorized observers have been surprised when the choose dominated in January that Mr. Zhao wasn’t responsible of murdering the sufferer, Yuan Gang. As an alternative, he was convicted of manslaughter and of “interfering with human stays.”
“Given the brutality of the crime in a placid, upper-crust Vancouver neighborhood and the very deliberate dismemberment of the physique, the sentence is manifestly on the low aspect,” Chris Johnson, a lawyer for the sufferer’s property, instructed me.
After I first heard in regards to the killing whereas on project in Vancouver two years in the past, I used to be each riveted and repulsed. Past its chilling violence, the motives of Mr. Zhao, who grew up Harbin, in northeast China, appeared murky. Its flamboyant solid of characters included a rich sufferer with a passion for stuffed black panthers, and a glamorous actuality present star.
The quantity 108 was additionally jarring: Based on Chinese language legend, it’s the optimum quantity when carving up a complete Peking duck.
Whereas investigating the crime, I went to the hulking mansion in an unique West Vancouver neighborhood with sweeping views of the Pacific. I attempted to think about the scene after the police have been referred to as and officers have been observing Mr. Zhao from the home’s massive again home windows, pacing with a rifle and washing blood from a knife.
I observed one thing else: The tackle of the home — 963 King George’s Method — had been modified to 961. The sticker masking the outdated tackle was seen. I later realized that the ruse was the work of an actual property agent, fearful that patrons can be spooked.
The case has grabbed headlines in Canada in addition to China. Ian Younger, Vancouver correspondent for the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Publish, instructed me that it underscored how Vancouver had turn into a worldwide bolt-hole for the Chinese language superrich.
“There’s a fascination in Hong Kong and China about what China’s idle wealthy do abroad,” he stated.
Mr. Zhao’s spouse was associated to Mr. Yuan by marriage, and the millionaire had invited the poorer, Montreal-based Zhao household to maneuver into his mansion. Mr. Zhao managed Mr. Yuan’s Saskatchewan farm enterprise however regarded Mr. Yuan as a 41-year-old playboy and brutish womanizer, who had as many as 100 girlfriends.
On a Saturday in Might 2015, the 2 males got here to blows after Mr. Zhao, an avid inventor, requested Mr. Yuan to spend money on his newest invention — a rifle stand. Mr. Yuan finally agreed, however he had a caveat: permission to marry Mr. Zhao’s daughter Florence.
Mr. Zhao turned apoplectic. “You might be worse than a beast!” he raged, based on his courtroom testimony.
The boys tussled over a hammer, earlier than Mr. Zhao shot Mr. Yuan twice with a rifle. Then he reduce up the physique with an electrical hand noticed, hiding an elbow in a big meat freezer within the storage.
Li Zhao’s previous intrigued me. When he was a baby, his father, a physician, had been despatched to a labor camp for opposing the Chinese language state and he was viciously bullied in school. After the killing, considered one of his staff instructed a Vancouver investigator that his boss had finished goal apply by asking an worker to carry the goal at arm’s size whereas he shot his rifle.
Had a lifetime of simmering resentments and his early historical past of being bullied make him snap? Was he actually attempting to guard his daughter? Or, at barely over 5 ft, did he concern the burlier Mr. Yuan?
Mr. Yuan’s way of life — and shadowy previous — added one other layer of intrigue. He owned two imposing mansions, a fleet of luxurious automobiles and a non-public island. A 2015 Chinese language courtroom judgment confirmed that he had bribed a senior communist official with a 1,000 gram gold bar in return for coal mining rights.
After his demise, seven of his girlfriends stated he had fathered their youngsters and made claims on his $30 million Canadian property.
Mr. Johnson, the lawyer, recalled that the Yuan household flew him, first-class, to Beijing to have DNA exams carried out on two infants. He instructed me he watched “the way to” YouTube movies on the aircraft. In the long run, one child matched, together with 4 others in Vancouver.
Including to the spectacle, Mr. Zhao’s daughter Florence was on a well-liked Vancouver-based actuality present referred to as “Extremely Wealthy Asian Ladies.” In a single episode, Florence, an aspiring dressmaker, hosts the opposite solid members on Mr. Yuan’s personal island. The present’s producer Kevin Li instructed me that Florence had instructed him that she was afraid of Mr. Yuan.
Curiosity within the killing is unlikely to abate. “This case is like an imperial courtroom drama with household tensions that imploded in a violent lurid vogue,” Mr. Younger, the correspondent, stated. “This story has all of it.”