A woman accused of killing seven people has gone on trial in southeastern China after spending more than 20 years on the run.
Lao Rongzhi, 46, appeared in the Nanchang Intermediate People’s Court in Jiangxi province on Monday, according to a statement posted by the court on its official Weibo social media account.
Lao “expressed her apologies” to the victims’ families and claimed she was a “victim,” who was forced to help her boyfriend, convicted murderer Fa Ziying, out of fear, state-run newspaper Beijing Youth Daily reported.
Fa was arrested in July 1999. He was convicted of seven murders and executed in December that year, state media reported.
“The two conspired and had a clear division of labor,” the Nanchang court statement alleges. “They jointly committed crimes of robbery, kidnapping and intentional homicide in Nanchang, Wenzhou, Changzhou and Hefei.”
Lao told the court that Fa’s methods were “very cruel” and that during her relationship with him, she suffered physical and mental abuse, and two miscarriages, Beijing Youth Daily reported.
Lao and Fa were in a relationship between 1996 and 1999, according to the Nanchang Intermediate People’s Court statement.
Following Fa’s arrest, Lao used multiple aliases to abscond across the country. She traveled to different cities, and made a living by doing part-time jobs in bars and other entertainment venues, according to a statement released by the Xiamen Municipal Public Security Bureau last year.
She also had surgery to change her appearance to avoid arrest, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
Lao was arrested in November last year in a shopping mall in the southeastern city of Xiamen, and was charged with murder, robbery, and kidnapping, according to Chinese authorities.
On Monday, Lao told the court that she had been “living in darkness” for the past two decades. She added that she can “finally sleep peacefully” and no longer lives in fear of being caught by the police, according to Beijing Youth Daily.
Zhu Dahong, the wife of one of Lao’s victims, said that it was “difficult to accept such an apology,” Beijing Youth Daily reported.
“The pain we suffered in the past two decades cannot be brushed away by an apology,” Zhu said.
Additional reporting by CNN’s Beijing bureau