During his trial in July 2017, 55-year-old Gao Chengyong admitted to raping and murdering 11 women between 1988 and 2002. Police say that he targeted young women who dressed in red and lived alone. He would follow them home, rape them, and kill them. As for the Jack the Ripper comparisons, Gao would often slash the throats of his victims and mutilate their bodies, including cutting off parts of their reproductive organs and throwing them into the Yellow River.
Centered around the city of Baiyin in northeastern Gansu province, the killings terrified local women, who refused to go outside without a male escort. Gao’s youngest victim was just 8 years old.
The crimes were first officially linked in 2004. “The suspect has a sexual perversion and hates women. He’s reclusive and unsociable, but patient,” police said at the time while announcing a 200,000 yuan reward for information leading to his arrest. However, no promising leads came forward.
But, in 2016, police decided to re-open the cold case, using new technology to re-examine DNA evidence from the crime scenes. And then, they got lucky. Gao’s uncle was arrested for a minor crime. The DNA sample that he provided indicated that one of his relatives was responsible for the gruesome series of murders
Police began investigating and eventually zeroed in on Gao, who was registered as living in his hometown of Qingcheng, located about 120 km away from Baiyin, where he had found work at a local vocational school and was the father of two.
In 1988, the same year that his first son was born, Gao carried out his first murder, stabbing a 23-year-old woman 26 times and slashing her throat inside her own home. Gao told police that he killed the woman because she had caught him during a robbery attempt.
Gao’s first son never really knew his father — meeting him only once — but was shocked to hear what his dad had done.
“I didn’t know what to say, or how to deal with it,” he said. “I’ve accepted the fact, but I cannot understand why he did it.”
One of Gao’s cousins said that Gao had taken good care of his paralyzed father in the 1980s. Gao’s younger son said that his father had suffered through a bitter youth with his dream of becoming a pilot falling through because of “political reasons.”
Gao’s neighbors were utterly shocked by what he had done. Locals described Gao as an introverted, honest, and silent man who loved gambling, dogs, and dancing. “He never revealed what he really meant when he talked. But I never knew he hid so much,” one neighbor said.
Another neighbor revealed that Gao once spoke to him about the urban legends surrounding the serial killer of Baiyin, but said that he never could have imagined that Gao was the murderer.
Last March, Gao was given the death penalty by a court in Baiyin for robbery, rape, murder, and mutilation of corpses. The judge also ruled that the families of each of Gao’s victims should receive 39,947 yuan in compensation.