The Vicious Unsolved Murder of Donglei Shi

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Donglei Shi was strangled to death on April 9, 2010, in Alhambra, California, a few miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles. Her father spent years searching for information in his daughter’s murder, and he and investigators believe she knew the person who caused her death.

There is not a lot of info on her murder, and there has been no media coverage since 2012. So, of course, I want it on my blog!

Warning: This article discusses sexual assault.

The Murder of Donglei Shi

Donglei Shi

Donglei Shi, 31, was last seen alive at 5:30 p.m. on April 9, 2010, at her workplace, REM Eyewear, 10941 La Tuna Canyon Road, Sun Valley, where she worked as a graphic designer. Her brother tried calling her several times that evening but could not reach her. Around 4:30 a.m. the following day, a man walking his dog found her body in the 300 block of East Woodward Avenue in a grassy area at Story Park near a flood control panel and sidewalk. The killer had dragged her body several feet before placing it at its location.

The decedent wore a black hair scrunchie, black underwear, white socks, and blue shoes with no laces. I observed the skirt bunched up such that her buttocks were exposed. There were purple glasses and a yellow anklet/bracelet near her head.

Criminalist Eucen L. Fu, in his report after examining the body at the crime scene.

Fu also stated that her underwear had been pulled down. 

Police bloodhounds tracked Donglei’s scent around the corner from the park, where they found her Toyota Prius in a quiet residential neighborhood. Inside the car were two coffee mugs and Donglei’s black purse. 

Autopsy Findings

A medical examiner found that Donglei was struck in the head and about the face. Her killer sexually assaulted, sodomized and strangled her with a ligature. 

“White droplets were in the pubic area. Rectal and perirectal hemorrhages strongly suggest rectal penetration, but the object involved cannot be determined,” the autopsy report states. Police have never said whether they conducted DNA testing on the samples.

Toxicology reports did not detect alcohol or drugs in her system. 

Investigation

There were no witnesses to the crime, and no one had seen Donglei or spotted anything unusual in the area. The police believed her killer had committed the crime elsewhere and dumped her body in the park.

Detectives were tight-lipped on the murder and placed a security hold on the case. According to the Los Angeles Daily News, “Security holds are typically placed on high-profile cases involving celebrities or cases where detectives seek to limit public information.” 

Lt. Liam Gallagher of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) said: “We don’t want people to know how she died right now. There’s only a few people who know that: the people that did it and us.”

They initially refused to say whether the assailant had sexually assaulted Donglei, which is a motive for murder. Her family believed Donglei left work that fateful day to meet someone she knew.

Possible Suspects

One possible suspect in Donglei’s murder is her ex-boyfriend, Daniel Duong, whom she had dated for a year. The couple broke up in 2007 but continued selling life insurance together. She had known him for about 10 years since her arrival in America. Her family described him as “driven and savvy, and introduced Donglei to things and places she had not explored as an immigrant.” (Bermudez 2012) 

When Daniel and Donglei were dating, Donglei often looked fatigued and was “sad and more moody than usual,” her father said in 2012. He believed his daughter’s relationship was rocky, but Donglei never said anything, and he did not want to pry.

A few weeks before her murder, someone had changed the primary beneficiary on Donglei’s life insurance policy from her mother, Linda Shi, to Daniel. Someone had also taken out a second policy for $1 million with Daniel as the recipient. (Bermudez)

After her death, Donglei’s father, Jianmin (George) Shi, filed a civil lawsuit to prevent Daniel from collecting $890,000 from one insurance company. They settled in November 2011 and split the payout. The second insurer refused to pay during the criminal investigation, and it is unclear if they ever did.

George also filed a wrongful death suit against Daniel and Aaron Lee, Donglei’s boyfriend at the time of her murder. Investigators said they questioned both men but never mentioned if they ruled them out.

Family Hired Private Investigator in 2012 

The Shi family hired private investigator Dale Kelley, a former FBI agent, to help solve Donglei’s murder. They felt the police were not doing their job correctly and efficiently.

Kelley examined the crime scene report, which stated Donglei was found “on her left lateral side with her head toward the southeast and her feet toward the northwest. The left side of her face is against the ground. Both arms are extended toward the southwest. Both knees are slightly bent with the right leg behind the left leg.”

The position of her body suggested the killer had posed it, and Kelley theorized it could have been the work of a serial killer, although police said they did not think her death was connected to other killings.

Kelley found a witness who he believed the police never interviewed – the man who found Donglei’s body. The witness said he saw a man sitting in Donglei’s car with a woman matching Donglei’s description “draped across the man’s lap.” Investigators said they did interview the witness who found her body and re-interviewed him. However, it is unclear what came from the questioning, and police have not released any further information since 2012. 

The case remains unsolved.

The Shi Family

Donglei was born on December 26, 1978 and often went by the name “Kyral.” She was the oldest of two children and the only daughter born to Jianmin (George) Shi and Xiaoling (Linda) Shi. 

George Shi immigrated from China to America in 1996 to start a better life for his family. His wife and children joined him three years later. When the family reunited, Donglei, then 21, focused on learning English and her schoolwork. She graduated with honors in studio art from Cal State Long Beach. 

Donglei was a beautiful woman cut down in her prime and much loved by her family, who were devastated by the tragic events.

Linda Shi prays in her family's apartment.

The last time George Shi saw his daughter alive was on April 8, 2010, when she stopped by his acupuncture practice. She often helped him manage the business. They spoke briefly in the parking lot, and Donglei wore a white sweater and pink skirt. George cherished the last memory of his daughter. There was nothing unusual about the conversation and Donglei appeared normal.

“I only wish it had lasted longer,” George later said.

George relentlessly searched for answers to his daughter’s murder and tried desperately to get others to help. He wrote letters to members of Congress and then-President Barack Obama, China’s ambassador to the U.S., and the Chinese Consulate – all unanswered. He plastered fliers across Alhambra with his daughter’s picture and case information and printed notices in Chinese and Vietnamese newspapers, to no avail. 

George Shi posting fliers on the wall of an Alhambra restaurant.

As far as I can tell, Donglei’s parents still reside in San Gabriel. However, George has not given interviews since 2012. 

The family had a website set up where anyone could post information relating to Donglei’s murder. However, it is no longer live. 

Anyone with information regarding Donglei Shi’s death should contact LASD’s homicide detectives at (323) 890-5500.

Donglei Shi

TCD’s Thoughts

Daniel stood to collect $1.89 million in life insurance upon her death. Someone, most likely Daniel, changed the beneficiary weeks before her murder. That’s a HUGE motive for murder. 

The fact that her killer had sexually assaulted her could suggest a random killer and that it was the primary motive. If he had posed the body, he definitely wanted someone to see it. A random stranger killing her is a plausible theory because nobody knows what she was doing from the time she left work at 5:30 p.m. Friday until 4:30 a.m. Saturday when the dog walker discovered her body. The distance from her workplace to Story Park is 20 miles. Her car was parked “around the corner.” I think the street might have been Story Place. It fits the L.A. Times description of her vehicle “parked on a quiet street lined with trees and quaint homes.” 

Where did she go directly after she left work?

I wish we knew more about the witness Kelley found who allegedly saw the male in the Prius with Donglei. What time did the sighting occur? Why didn’t they call the police after the murder hit the news? Did she appear to be under duress? What did the man look like? Was he Asian? It was probably dark, so maybe they could not tell.

Was Daniel the one sitting in the Prius? I say yes. Where the car was parked points toward a secret meeting, so it could have been Daniel. I supposed it could have been another man people knew nothing about. Was Donglei having an affair? 

Could the “sexual assault” have been consensual sex, but something happened after, such as a heated argument gone bad? Not to get graphic, but it could have been Donglei’s first time — I hate this word — anally. 

Did Daniel want to get back together with Donglei, but she didn’t?

Who did she meet there, and why? Why did she not tell anyone who she was meeting? Who did she work with? Did she leave work alone or with someone? 

Daniel lived near Story Park. The police questioned him, but did they check his background? Did he have a criminal history?

I found an Aaron Lee, who once lived on Electric Avenue in Alhambra, 5 minutes from the park. He also resided in Monterey Park, 10 minutes from Story Park. This Aaron Lee is 53 (Donglei would be 46 if alive) and lives in Alhambra today, although in a different location. Could this be the same Aaron Lee? It’s a common name, so who knows?

Sources

Bermudez, Esmeralda. “A Father’s Quest For Justice.” Los Angeles Times, January 11, 2012. 

“Community Reacts to Death of San Gabriel Woman Whose Body Was Found in Alhambra.” San Bernardino Sun, April 13, 2010. (Accessed March 30, 2024) https://www.sbsun.com/2010/04/13/community-reacts-to-death-of-san-gabriel-woman-whose-body-was-found-in-alhambra/

“Experts Say Dead Woman Found in Alhambra Was Likely Killed by Someone She Knew.” Los Angeles Daily News, April 14, 2010. (Accessed March 30, 2024) https://www.dailynews.com/2010/04/14/experts-say-dead-woman-found-in-alhambra-was-likely-killed-by-someone-she-knew/

“Family Of Murdered San Gabriel Woman Looking For Answers.” CBS News, September 13, 2012. (Accessed March 30, 2024) https://www.cbsnews.com/losangeles/news/family-of-murdered-san-gabriel-woman-looking-for-answers/

“Friends, Family of woman Found Dead in Alhambra Speak Out.” Los Angeles Daily News, April 13, 2010. (Accessed March 30, 2024). https://www.dailynews.com/2010/04/13/friends-family-of-woman-found-dead-in-alhambra-speak-out/

Girardot, Frank C. “Woman Was Strangled, ‘Penetrated’ Before Dumped in Alhambra Park.’ Pasadena Star News, September 10, 2012. (Accessed March 30, 2024) https://www.pasadenastarnews.com/2012/09/10/woman-was-strangled-penetrated-before-dumped-in-alhambra-park/

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True Crime Diva

True Crime Diva

I've blogged true crime since 2010, happily taking up only a tiny corner of the internet. I'm not here for attention; I'm here to tell you their stories.

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