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Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Revenge
Number of victims: 4
Date of murders: February 13-15, 2004
Date of arrest: March 15, 2004
Date of birth: 1981
Victims profile: Four male students (Yunnan University classmates)
Method of murder: Hitting with a hammer
Location: Kunming, Yunnan Province, China
Status: Executed by firing squad on June 16, 2004
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University quadruple killer executed

China Daily

June 17, 2004

Ma Jiajue, a college student who was sentenced to death for killing four of his Yunnan University classmates, was executed in Southwest China's Yunnan Province Thursday.

The execution was conducted to comply with a verdict by the Intermediate People's Court of Kunming.

Ma, 22, from the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, killed four classmates at Yunnan University between February 13 and 15.

His four victims' bodies were found in a school dormitory on February 23, all with fatal blunt-force trauma injuries.

Ma was later listed as chief suspect by the police, and a 200,000 yuan (US$24,000) reward was offered to anyone who provided information leading to his apprehension.

After being at large for 21 days, Ma was captured on March 15 in South China's island province of Hainan. He was escorted back to Yunnan two days later. When asked by police for a motive in the killings, Ma said the four had accused him of cheating during a card game.

The Kunming Intermediate People's Court sentenced Ma to death on April 24.

The Yunnan Provincial Higher People's Court upheld the verdict of the Kunming Intermediate People's Court after an automatic review.

The murder case has attracted nationwide attention, with experts and ordinary people heatedly discussing how a college student could choose to kill his young schoolmates.


Student killer an introvert who finally cracks

By Zhi Zhi and Huang Yiming - China Daily

March 17, 2004

It is not the first time that student killer Ma Jiajue had been on the run.

In 1999, as an 18-year-old student in senior high school, he became so depressed that he might not pass the National College Entrance Examination that he quietly slipped away without informing anyone.

The school reported the matter to police and Ma was found a few days later in Guigang, a city 50 kilometers away from his school.

Ma reportedly told police that the reason for his trip to Guigang was he had never seen the sea; and since Guigang means "Gui port" in Chinese, he thought it was a seaside city.

The school took him back and imposed a disciplinary punishment.

This time, though, the 23-year-old final-year biochemistry major will not be going back to Yunnan University in the provincial capital, Kunming. He will either face the gallows or a long-term detention.

On the run for 21 days, Ma was arrested in Sanya, South China's Hainan Province, on Monday night. Police said he confessed to the killings of four fellow students between February 13 and 15. The bodies were found in dormitory closets on February 23.

The Ministry of Public Security had issued a nationwide alert for Ma's arrest on February 24 and announced a 200,000 yuan (US$24,000) reward for information leading to his capture.

Asked for a reason for the killings, Ma reportedly told police that they accused him of being a cheat in a card game.

Introverted personality

A loner at home; an introvert at school; a bookworm with a complex about his poverty; a kung fu fan who loved violent movies; and a brilliant student whose performances would suddenly dip.

This is the complex portrait that emerged from conversations with Ma's parents, teachers and peers.

His introverted character and long-time depression may have contributed to his cruel killings, according to psychological experts.

Ma, 23, came from an impoverished rural family in a remote village in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

As the first in generations to progress to higher education, he was the pride of the family.

His father, 54-year-old Ma Jianfu, still does not believe what his son had done.

"Can you see the cruel side of him?" the elder Ma asked pointing to a black-and-white photo of his son taken during his middle school days.

Li Fengying, Ma Jiajue's 53-year-old mother, said Ma has two sisters and one elder brother but they do not have close ties.

The junior Ma spent a lonely childhood as both his father and mother were preoccupied with farming, according to Li.

She added that there was little communication between the father and son because both of them were men of few words.

Studies took up Ma Jiajue's life in primary school and he had few friends to play with, said Ma Zangyuan, one of Ma Jiajue's teachers.

The teacher recalled that Ma Jiajue was one of his best students; he was good at mathematics but did poorly in the Chinese language.

Top student

When Ma Jiajue attended junior high school in Binzhou Middle School, he studied harder and finally became the top student in his class and even won second prize in a national physics competition.

"He was undoubtedly famous in junior school and won the admiration of his classmates," said Wang Guisheng, one of Ma Jiajue's teachers at the school.

But in the eyes of his classmates, Ma Jiajue was still a studious student who had no friends.

In 1997, Ma Jiajue joined Binyang Middle School for senior high school but no longer studied hard.

Huang Jian, one of his former roommates, said Ma was addicted to reading kung fu novels at that time while staying aloof from his classmates.

And an inferiority complex caused by the poverty of his family added to Ma Jiajue's loneliness.

Meanwhile, his academic performance fell sharply.

Realizing his slim chance of attending university due to the highly competitive entrance examination, Ma Jiajue was so perturbed that he took off from school in November 1999 - and was found by police a few days later.

The incident, however, did dramatically change Ma's life, who made a desperate effort to make up for his failures - and succeeded in the university entrance exam.

In September 2000, Ma was admitted to Yunnan University - and his father gave him the family's life savings of 6,000 yuan (US$725).

During his first year in college, Ma made a futile effort to be sociable but ended up becoming more testy, frequently quarrelling with his classmates. "All of us felt his mental problems because he always picked fault with others while never thinking he may have done wrong," one of Ma Jiajue's university classmates said.

Extreme step

"For that reason, his classmates distanced themselves from him but they never expected him to take such an extreme step."

His classmates said he did not participate in any group events in the past four years.

"The murderous crime resulted from his long-time depression and perverted mentality," said one of Ma Jiajue's classmates.

Psychological experts say Ma's actions have a lot to do with his mental problems, and put the focus on the psychological health of college students.

Zhao Ying, a psychology counselor at Renmin University of China in Beijing, said Ma's growing-up years demonstrated that he has long been suffering from isolation.

University teachers should look out for mental problems in students such as Ma and encourage them to take part in more collective activities to help them overcome their social problems, Zhao said, adding that colleges tend to ignore psychological problems among students while paying more attention to their studies.

Zhao pointed out that images of violence in movies and on the Internet should also be partially blamed for rising violent crimes among young people.

Media reports said Ma Jiajue loves action movies and often surfs the Internet for information or pictures about murders and attacks against police.

Wang Jianzhong, a member of a committee specializing in the mental issues of college students, said many college students are beset by various degrees of psychological problems.

A report on the mental health of college students released last year said that around 16.5 percent of 500,000 Beijing college students have a tendency towards illness.

To address the serious problem, as many as 70 percent of Beijing-based colleges and universities have established psychological consultation centers to provide students with access to professionals to discuss their conflicts and issues.


Truth, Justice, and the Chinese Way of Life

March 12, 2004

There's a serial murderer at large in our city - unless he's slipped back into his neighboring home province, or fled the country, or killed himself. Everybody has a theory and nobody knows.

What's known for sure is that in mid February, four Yunnan University college seniors were beaten to death with what the newspapers refer to obliquely as, "a blunt metal object." Or, in the words of insiders, an axe. The official reports are sketchy but with a story this juicy there is no end to the rumors and hearsay.

One thing that everyone seems to agree on is the identity of the killer. Ma Jiajue was friends with all of the victims, roommates with one of them, and disappeared at the same time as the four who were found dead. A few days after the murders, but before the bodies were found, somebody emptied out the bank account of one of the victims, and that person reportedly looked a lot like Ma Jiajue. Other than that nobody has seen very much of him.

It's not for lack of trying. By now there's not a person in Kunming who doesn't know what Ma Jiajue looks like. The provincial government has made an official "wanted" poster with Ma's college ID photo, and plastered copies of it all over the city. Another poster, illustrated with snapshots perhaps recovered from his dead roomates, shows Ma striking martial arts poses, shirtless and fierce. Photos that were once passed among friends now take on sinister overtones; every smile looks like a sneer, a proud stance appears predatory, a good physique brings on thoughts of a "blunt metal object" crushing skulls.

Producing Ma Jiajue posters has become something like a folk art, as new variations appear every day. The stock of images is limited, but this has not stopped people from rearranging and resizing them, posting multiple photocopies on lampposts, storefronts, and residential entry gates. The repetition looks like an Andy Warhol exhibition. Right now, Ma Jiajue is the best known man in Yunnan. If the Rolling Stones and the reunited Beatles were coming to town, complete with a revived John Lennon and George Harrison, the publicity could not be greater. I don't think the Second Coming would get this much attention.

A 150,000 yuan reward for Ma Jiajue's capture was announced, which was later raised to 200,000 and now 400,000 yuan. The police have made him Public Enemy Number One and apprehending him is their primary objective. The national government is supporting the manhunt in our distant province, sending soldiers into the forests surrounding our city, looking for hideouts. Ma Jiajue was born and raised in the countryside and, like Eric Rudolph, he is presumed to be capable of hiding and living off of the land indefinitely. The bogeyman is on the loose.

This story has captured people's imagination like nothing else. People get killed in China all the time - two drunks got in a knife fight and one died right in our neighborhood - but nobody gets too excited. There was a brief story a few months back about villagers killing their neighbors with rat poison. And during our last stay in China, a disgruntled worker was believed to be behind an apartment house explosion that killed dozens of people. So four deaths alone are not enough to account for the interest.

What strikes people, I think, is the sudden brutality of crime in a location that, to many people, seems like a sanctuary. Being a college student in China is still a rare privilege, the first step on a path to a lifetime of success and happiness. It is a world apart from the labor and the dangers of ordinary peasant life, and an unexpected place to face death.

I don't know how much attention the story is getting outside of our province. As far as I can tell, the Ma Jiajue murders have not been reported on the English-language national CCTV news broadcast. I'd like to think that this is because the story is too sensational, with too few solid facts, but judging by what does go on the air, that can't be the case.

For example, CCTV news recently reported that Osama bin Laden was surrounded on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. A few days later they interrupted broadcasting to announce that he was captured. The US will deny this because George Bush is waiting to release the news at a time that will offer him the best advantage for reelection.

We have also heard that Saddam Hussein has lymph gland cancer, with fewer than two years to live. His much-publicized capture was a staged event; Hussein had been taken captive days earlier and was drugged by the Americans for the filming, making him appear docile and pathetic.

Every news agency has a bias. Stories get edited, facts get left out, events get intrepreted. Ma Jiajue is shown as a homicidal monster, a local terrorist who may strike again anywhere, at any time. In emergency safety meetings, we are told to lock our doors and be wary of strangers, but it's not clear to me that we are in danger. Officials don't seem to think that why Ma Jiajue killed four people is relevant.

Friends closer to the story have helped to fill in the picture. They tell us that in the poor village where he was raised, Ma Jiajue was the smartest boy around. He became a local hero, attracting the praise of school authorities and the attention of local government officials. With their help, he got accepted at the best university in the region. His future looked bright.

But when he want off to the big city, he was no longer special. Other students were smarter, got better grades, were more popular. Ma Jiajue was an awkward outsider, a laboring peasant in the eyes of his peers, with coarse, thick features. He became discouraged and bitter, jealous of his roommates and their girlfriends.

One night, Ma Jiajue's roommate came home late after a romantic Valentine's Day date. Ma and his roommate fought, and in a rage, Ma beat and killed him with an axe. As he tried to conceal his deeds, a friend came by unexpectedly and discovered the body. Ma killed him too, and then went to the friend's room to kill his two roommates, hoping to silence anyone who might be able to connect him with the crime.

If this is true, Ma Jiajue is no less guilty, still a murderer needing to be captured and punished. But he is also someone that I can understand, a confused boy getting deeper and deeper into trouble the more he tries to protect himself. Under the wrong circumstances, I might do something equally disastrous, equally shortsighted.

On a smaller scale, Ma Jiajue has become Yunnan's Osama bin Laden, the terrorist exploiting our modern vulnerabilities. Raised in poverty, exposed to a better life, he could not adjust, and struck out against those who had more than him. His victims did nothing to deserve their fate. Having assaulted the civilized world, he has retreated to the traditional life of his family, a pariah in the wilderness, hoping forever to evade capture.

Sooner or later, Ma and bin Laden will be found. The outrage and the dedication of resources will see to that. Both of them will almost certainly die for their crimes. But part of me will always be wondering if I heard the whole story, and if their deaths served any purpose other than allowing us to stop asking questions, and to file away their crimes as solved.


Background Information: The Jiajue Case.

On February 23rd, 2004, a murder occurred in college in Kunming, Yunnan Province, resulting in the death of four male students. The victims were all former biology students at this college, and had returned on February 14 to find job positions after graduation. On February 20th, when the new semester officially began, the four did not register. Someone discovered a strange smell in their dormitory, opened the door and found four dead bodies. He called the police. The victims were: Shao Ruijie, who lived in Wuzhou, Guangxi, two from Yunnan and one from Shanxi. After the case was discovered, the police of Yunnan Province arduously discovered Ma Jiajue, the suspected criminal. This case is now under the control of the Ministry of Public Security.

Wanted: Ma Jiajue, male. Born: May 4th in Yunnan Province, China. Nationality: Han. Ma studies in the class of 2000 in the Department of Biotechnology of the Institute of Biochemistry in Yunnan University. His Household Registration address: No. 12, Production Team 1, Ma’er Village, Binzhou, Binyang , Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Height: ca. 171c m. Build: Middle. Facial characteristics: big jawbone, large prominent cheekbones, pointing chin, creased upper eyelids, deep eyes, bulbous nose, big mouth, large lower lip. Language: with Guangxi accent. ID No. 452123198105045232AB. When escaping, Ma Jiajue carried the IDs of two of his victims: Gong Bo (No. 612325198306120917) and Shao Ruijie (No. 450421198201175530). The police department is offering a reward of up to RMB 200,000 for information leading directly to the apprehension of Ma Jiajue. Call 110 or contact the nearest local police station if you have any information. Harboring and concealing the criminal is a federal offense and will result in punishment.



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