Late one night in March 2013, two men led 16-year-old Lu Dengliang into an empty mine shaft, smashed his head in with a hammer, and rigged the scene to look like an accident. After the owner of the mine compensated the conspirators with $100,000, they disposed of the evidence of their crime by flushing the boy’s ashes down the toilet.
Last month, one of the men responsible for the murder was sentenced to life in prison. Three other men involved in the crime have received sentences ranging from 19 years in prison to the death penalty, according to court documents made public in late June.
Born to a rural family in southern China’s Sichuan province, Dengliang was “honest and quiet,” the boy’s father, Lu Wenbang, told the court. In February 2013, with support from a local church, Dengliang’s parents sent him to live and study at a theological seminary in neighboring Yunnan province. Less than a month later, the seminary called to say that Dengliang had left with one of his classmates. When Lu Wenbang called his son, the boy told him to leave him alone and hung up. These were the final words the two exchanged: When Lu Wenbang next received word of his son, it was from the police.
A few days after Dengliang left the seminary, he met Lan Yaolin at the train station in Kunming. Lan was looking for a victim. He and two accomplices, Wang Yinping and Lan Fajin, tricked Dengliang into traveling with them to Shaanxi province, some 1,700 kilometers away, by promising the boy lucrative work in a mine. They took Dengliang’s cellphone to keep him from seeking help.
With no identity card and no family nearby, Dengliang was the perfect target. To get a job in the mine, Lan Fajin had Dengliang assume the identity of Luo Qing, his brother-in-law’s son. The brother-in-law, Luo Zaihua, was a gambler, and went along with the plan in hopes of paying off his debts.
As Luo Qing, Dengliang went to work at a coal mine in Baishui County, northeast of Xi’an, the provincial capital, on March 17, along with Lan Yaolin and another conspirator surnamed Wang. One night when the three were on duty together, Wang and Lan Yaolin told Dengliang there was a tunnel that needed fixing. Sun Guanglun, a mine supervisor, later testified that the trio were carrying just one ax. No one else was in the tunnel.
Lan Yaolin told the court that after he hit Dengliang in the head with a hammer, he and Wang knocked rocks loose from the ceiling of the tunnel to make the scene look like a cave-in. After piling rocks and debris on the boy’s body, Lan Yaolin went looking for help.
The next day, Luo Zaihua went to the mine to negotiate compensation for his slain “son,” and the mine’s owner, Li Wanbao, agreed to pay a sum of 680,000 yuan ($100,000) as compensation.
Luo and several of his relatives took Dengliang’s body to be cremated. Afterward, the six conspirators — Luo, the two Lans, and three men surnamed Wang — gathered in a hotel room in the city of Weinan to divide up their ill-gotten gains. The men concluded their meeting by disposing of Dengliang’s ashes in the toilet.
The next day, however, three of the conspirators were apprehended at Xianyang International Airport in Xi’an: Police had determined Dengliang’s true identity from his QQ messenger account, which he had accessed using Lan Yaolin’s phone. One of the Wangs was apprehended in late 2016, not in northern China but in Sichuan province.
Editor: David Paulk.
(Header image: Workers shovel soil at a coal mine in Jining, Shandong province, Sept. 15, 2010. VCG)