A man's attempt to blame his mother for the brutal killing and dismemberment of his ex-girlfriend failed to sway a Toronto-area jury, who found him guilty Thursday of second-degree murder.
The verdict suggests jurors believed that Chun Qi Jiang meant to kill 41-year-old Guang Hua Liu, but he didn't plan it, as the Crown alleged when prosecutors argued for a first-degree murder conviction.
Liu, a single mother of three who ran a massage parlour, had been locked in a love triangle that prosecutors alleged turned deadly after she rejected Jiang for his rival.
Jiang was arrested weeks after Liu's body parts began to surface in Toronto-area waterways and parks in August 2012, triggering a massive investigation.
His 66-year-old mother died soon after his arrest, and he testified at trial that she was the one who fatally stabbed and dismembered Liu in a fit of rage over allegedly stolen jewelry, while he simply helped cover up the gruesome crime.
Crown Attorney Brian McGuire said outside court that the elements required for a first-degree murder conviction can be hard to prove, but he is satisfied the jury rejected Jiang's attempt to pin the slaying on his mother.
"The difficulty sometimes with proving planning and deliberation is that you have to sort of reconstruct the past without your main witness, who's the deceased, and the defendant laid down a pretty good trail of lies and destruction of evidence, so in that light it is difficult to reconstruct that," McGuire said.
"(I) totally understand the jury's verdict in that regard and we're very satisfied that they saw through the rather superficial defence of Mr. Jiang in this case."
Jiang, who wore a plaid button-down shirt and tan slacks, remained stone-faced as the jury read out the verdict it reached after 13 hours of deliberations. The second-degree murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 10 to 25 years.
More than half the jury recommended 25 years of parole ineligibility, though the final decision will come from Ontario Superior Court Justice Gisele Miller. The case will return for sentencing arguments on Aug. 29.
No word on intent to appeal
Defence lawyer Kathryn Wells did not indicate if Jiang plans to appeal. Outside court she said that she is disappointed with the verdict, but this was a challenging case.
"Certainly it's a tragic case," Wells said. "Whatever the outcome was today there would be no winners because Ms. Liu obviously is no longer with us and — as I said in my closing — it's a gruesome set of facts."
Court heard Liu's head and body showed more than 40 "chop-like" wounds caused by a sharp-edged object, possibly a hatchet or cleaver.
The trial has also heard Liu's blood was found in the accused's basement and in the trunk of his car, while a pair of rubber gloves found in a kitchen drawer tested positive for both Liu and Jiang's DNA.
McGuire had argued the brutality of the assault on Liu, coupled with the careful eradication of any evidence that might point to her death, prove she was never meant to survive.
Jiang was familiar with the areas where her remains were dumped and made sure to leave her head, the most identifiable part, as far away from his home as possible, while still giving himself time to clean up the scene of the crime, he said.
Prosecutors also suggested Jiang's ailing mother would not have been physically able to overpower a fit, 41-year-old woman and walk away "without so much as a scratch."
Jiang testified he did not call police or an ambulance after the grisly incident that took place in the basement of his home. He admitted to bringing up parts of Liu's body to be washed in the kitchen sink and packing them in plastic bags, but insisted it was his mother who cut up the body.
He also told the court he put Liu's torso into a suitcase, went through the contents of her purse and put her belongings in bags to be disposed of with her remains.