Yang was born on July 29, 1968 in Zhengyang County, Zhumadian, Henan Province, China. His family was one of the poorest in their village. The youngest of four children, Yang was clever and introverted. He dropped out of school in 1985, at age 17, and refused to return home, instead traveling around China and working as a hired laborer.
In 1988 and 1991, Yang was sentenced to labor camps for theft in Xi’an, Shaanxi and Shijiazhuang, Hebei.In 1996, he was sentenced to five years in prison for attempted rape in Zhumadian, Henan and released in 1999.
Yang’s killings took place between 1999 and 2003 in the provinces of Anhui, Hebei, Henan and Shandong. At night, he would enter his victims’ homes, and kill all of the occupants—mainly farmers—with axes, hammers and shovels, sometimes killing entire families. Each time he wore new clothes and large shoes.
In October 2002, Yang killed a father and a six-year-old girl with a shovel and raped a pregnant woman, who survived the attack with serious head injuries.
Arrest, trial and execution
Yang was detained on November 3, 2003 after acting suspiciously during a routine police inspection of entertainment venues in Cangzhou, Hebei. Police took him in for questioning and discovered that he was wanted for murder in four provinces. As news of his arrest and crimes spread, the media dubbed him the “Monster Killer”.
Shortly after he was arrested, Yang confessed to 65 murders, 23 rapes and five attacks causing serious injury: 49 murders, 17 rapes and five attacks in Henan; eight murders and three rapes in Hebei; six murders and two rapes in Anhui; and two murders and one rape in Shandong. Police also matched his DNA with that found at several crime scenes.Later it was discovered that Yang contracted HIV from one of his victims.
On February 1, 2004, Yang was found guilty of 67 murders and 23 rapes, and sentenced to death in Luohe City Intermediate People’s Court, Henan. At the time of his sentencing, official Chinese media believed he had carried out China’s longest and grisliest killing spree. Yang was executed on February 14, 2004 by shooting.
According to some media reports at the time of his arrest, Yang’s motive for the killings was revenge against society as a result of a break up. Allegedly his girlfriend had left him because of his previous sentences for theft and rape. Later media reports claimed that his enjoyment of robbery, rape and murder was the motive.
While Yang never formally provided a motive, he was quoted as saying:
“When I killed people I had a desire. This inspired me to kill more. I don’t care whether they deserve to live or not. It is none of my concern…I have no desire to be part of society. Society is not my concern.”
List of his serial murders
- September 19, 2000, Guozhuang Village, Beijiao Township, Chuanhui District, Zhoukou City, Henan Province, 2 murders
- October 1, 2000, Chunshuzhuang, Xiaoying Village, Wangdian Town, Yingzhou District, Fuyang City, Anhui Province, 3 murders, 1 rape
- August 15, 2001, Fangcheliu Village, Juling Township, Linying County, Luohe City, Henan Province, 3 murders, 1 rape
- Fall 2001, Kanglou Township, Xihua County, Zhoukou City, Henan Province, 2 murders
- Winter 2001, a village southeast of the county town of Ye County, Pingdingshan, Henan Province, 2 murders
- January 27, 2002, Tongxu County, Kaifeng City, Henan Province, 3 murders, 1 rape
- June 30, 2002, Chaigang Township, Fugou County, Zhoukou City, Henan Province, 4 murders, 1 rape
- July 28, 2002, Dengzhou City, Nanyang City, Henan Province, 4 murders, 2 rapes
- October 22, 2002, Zhaihu Village, Songji Township, Xiping County, Zhumadian City, Henan Province, 2 murders, 1 rape, 1 seriously injured
- November 8, 2002, Gaoli Village, Shaodian Township, Shangcai County, Zhumadian City, Henan Province, 4 murders, 2 rapes, 1 seriously injured
- November 16, 2002, Liuzhuang Village, Zhangshi Town, Weishi County, Kaifeng City, Henan Province, 2 murders, 1 rape
- November 19, 2002, Shiguai Village, Wangmeng Township, Linying County, Luohe City, Henan Province, 2 murders
- December 1, 2002, Yanwan Village, Wangpiliu Town, Luyi County, Zhoukou City, Henan Province, 2 murders, 1 rape, 1 seriously injured
- December 6, 2002, Liuzhuang Village, Renhe Township, Xiping County, Zhumadian City, Henan Province, 5 murders, 1 rape
- December 13, 2002, Sijia Village, Malan Township, Yanling County, Xuchang City, Henan Province, 2 murders
- December 15, 2002, Xiaolizhuang, Miaocha Town, Linquan County, Fuyang City, Anhui Province, 3 murders, 1 rape
- February 5, 2003, Kuzhuang Township, Xiangcheng County, Xuchang City, Henan Province, 3 murders, 1 rape, 1 seriously injured
- February 18, 2003, Chiying Township, Xihua County, Zhoukou City, Henan Province, 4 murders, 2 rapes
- March 23, 2003, Chengguan Town, Minquan County, Shangqiu City, Henan Province, 4 murders, 1 rape
- April 2, 2003, Sanlizhai Village, Taoyuan Town, Cao County, Heze City, Shandong Province, 2 murders
- August 5, 2003, Lidao Village, Xingtai City, Hebei Province, 3 murders
- August 8, 2003, Dongliangxiang Village, Qiaoxi District, Shijiazhuang City, Hebei Province, 5 murders
Totals: 26 incidents, 67 murders, 23 rapes, 10 intentional serious injuries