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Monday, September 25, 2023

Desert Rd homicide: Gaoxiang Yu sentenced to 15 years’ prison for murdering Ricky Wang

Yu Gaoxiang, a Chinese national, was just released on parole in June last year following consecutive sentences for his involvement in a methamphetamine ring and helping dump the body of ring member Ricky Wang in a shallow grave near Tongariro National Park.

But just a day before he was deported after parole, police decided to arrest him again — this time on a more serious murder charge — in concluding that he played a much larger role in Wang’s death than he initially revealed.

The 26-year-old returned to the High Court in Auckland today where he was sentenced to 15 years for the murder and pleaded guilty last month. Judge Simon Moore also ordered Yu to be jailed for at least eight years before he can apply for parole.

Today is the first time the media has been allowed to report on his previous guilty plea and sentencing since his murder arrest. However, other aspects of the case are still being suppressed for the time being.

The remains of Bao Chang Wang, known as Ricky, were found in a concrete-covered shallow grave near Desert Rd and Tongariro National Park in March 2020.

Authorities said the father-of-two was killed in Auckland, about 370 kilometers away, in 2017, but he was never reported missing and his family was told he had emigrated overseas.

After Park Yeon-yong, who helped dump the body, called the police, the police discovered the grave and began to solve the case. In 2020, he was sentenced to 14 months in prison for murdering an accessory after the fact.

Months later, Zhang Yuzhen was sentenced to six months of home confinement on the same accessory charge after the civil engineer said he only helped dispose of the body out of loyalty to his friend Park.

Yu eventually pleaded guilty to the same accessory charge and was sentenced in May 2021 to one year, seven months and two weeks in prison. But the sentence was served consecutively, not concurrently with the six-year sentence imposed by a district court in 2019 for his role in a major commercial methamphetamine operation.

Another co-accused, who pleaded guilty to Wang’s murder, was sentenced to life in November last year with a minimum term of 12 years and three months.

Murder is usually punishable by life imprisonment, with a minimum term of at least 10 years, unless the judge considers such a sentence manifestly unfair. Crown prosecutor Matthew Nathan argued today that, given the premeditation involved and the high level of depravity, cruelty and callousness involved, a life sentence would be imposed.

But Justice Moore agreed with defense attorney Nick Chisnall, KC, given his smaller role compared to Zhao, the time he had already served on related ancillary charges, his time in jail while the charges were still pending, and other factors. .

“You did not play a major role in the crime,” Judge Moore said. “Your role is still helpful.”

Chisnall also submitted a letter to the judge in which he described his “inner conflict” over years of silence about his true role in the murder. In addition, the judge reviewed a psychological report and two victim impact statements – all of which were originally filed in Yu’s previous accessory convictions.

The judge noted in his psychological report that Yu came to New Zealand to pursue higher education but dropped it due to injuries and that the recreational cannabis he used for pain relief quickly turned into a methamphetamine addiction.

Judge Moore described today’s sentencing as the “most difficult” sentencing he had ever encountered, as there were numerous technical issues related to the time Yu had already served on the charges and what that meant for his eventual release on parole. The legal complexities are “novel and far from straightforward,” he said.

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