MARIETTA — A U.S. Army veteran pleaded guilty Monday morning to murdering his 28-year-old girlfriend and leading authorities on a nationwide manhunt that ended in Texas. The couple had worked together at a company in Canton.
The couple had worked together at a company in Canton.
Brian Marsh Semrinec, a 25-year-old who served in Afghanistan, killed Chinese national Shuyi Li in September of 2017 by beating and slashing her with multiple weapons at her townhome near SunTrust Park, investigators said.
Li was a 28-year-old Georgia Tech graduate who moved to the area from China’s Guangdong Province to earn her master’s degree in building construction.
She and Semrinec worked together at a renovation company in Canton, according to prosecutors. They had been together about a year, but had already established a history of domestic violence, according to Jesse Evans, Cobb’s chief assistant district attorney.
“It was a tumultuous relationship to say the least,” he said, adding that friends told police they were concerned for Li’s safety when she didn’t show up for work one morning.
It isn’t clear whether an argument between the two led to the murder of Li, whose body was found wrapped in a blanket inside her kitchen.
After killing his girlfriend, Semrinec stole Li’s Honda CR-V and drove it halfway across the country to Dallas, Texas, stopping at grocery stores along the way to purchase items with her credit cards, according to police.
He was arrested after attempting to check himself into a Veterans Affairs hospital, said Evans, adding Semrinec admitted killing his girlfriend to a security guard at the Dallas VA.
Prosecutors said Semrinec had a history of post-traumatic stress disorder and suffered frequent nightmares, the result of his tour in Afghanistan. But his attorney said in court his client underwent a psychiatric evaluation after his arrest and was deemed competent to stand trial for his girlfriend’s murder.
He pleaded guilty instead and received a life sentence from Cobb Superior Court Judge Gregory Poole, who said he couldn’t imagine what would compel Semrenic to kill Li.
“I’m not going to sit here and lecture you. I don’t know why in the world I would do that,” Poole said. “I don’t understand this matter, I don’t understand this crime and I don’t understand why someone would take the life of young woman under any circumstance. I just don’t understand it.”
Semrinec must serve three decades in prison before he is eligible for parole consideration
Looking on as he pleaded guilty to malice murder were some of Li’s friends and fellow roommates, who wept as additional details of her death were revealed in court.
Li comes from a prominent Chinese family, and a representative from the Chinese consulate in Houston made the trip to Georgia for Monday’s sentencing.
The murder case also shook Atlanta’s Chinese community.
Bing Zeng, president of the Atlanta chapter of the Association of Chinese Professionals, called Li’s death devastating.
She had only been in the states about three years and was excited about graduating and landing a job in her field, according to Zeng.
“She was a beautiful, intelligent and hard-working young lady,” she said. “She doesn’t deserve this.”