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A photo circulating on Chinese social media said to have been taken while police investigated the home where Chen Liren allegedly beat his wife, Yu Xuanyi, to death. Photo: Weibo

Chinese software engineer for Google accused of murdering his wife is out of hospital, awaits arraignment

  • Chen Liren, 27, had been hospitalised since his arrest on January 16 for beating his wife, Yu Xuanyi, to death in their home in Santa Clara, California
  • Chen and Yu both graduated from Tsinghua University in Beijing and worked for Google; the case has shocked social media in mainland China

Chen Liren, a Chinese software engineer for Google accused of beating his wife to death in their home in Santa Clara, California, was transferred from the hospital to jail on Tuesday to await arraignment on murder charges.

Chen, who has been hospitalised since his arrest three weeks ago, has missed five scheduled arraignments. He is expected to appear in court on Friday.

If convicted of the charge, he faces the possibility of life in prison without parole.

Chen was arrested on January 16 after police, following up on a call from a concerned acquaintance, found him covered in blood in the house he shared with his wife, Yu Xuanyi, who also worked for the US tech giant.

Yu’s body was found inside a bedroom in the home.

A Google office near the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. Photo: Reuters

The reason for Chen’s hospitalisation remain undisclosed. Michael Gadeberg, deputy district attorney for Santa Clara County, said he intended to ask the court to deny Chen bail.

Chen and Yu, both 27-year-old software engineers, graduated from the elite Tsinghua University in Beijing before studying computer science at the University of California San Diego. The case has shocked social media in mainland China.

On his LinkedIn profile, Chen indicated he had worked on the algorithm behind YouTube Shorts, a TikTok-like tool on the platform. At the time of her death, Yu also worked for Google, following employment with Amazon for about a year.

The couple had recently bought a house together worth US$2 million, according to media reports. Neighbours said the two led a quiet, normal life, albeit away from the rest of the community.

Google engineer from China accused of beating wife to death in US

Yu’s death came to light on January 16 after an acquaintance of Chen’s voiced concern about him and Yu because Chen had refused to answer his phone or door.

The individual reported seeing Chen through a window in the home – motionless, on his knees, his hands in the air and staring blankly.

Officers from the Santa Clara fire department then arrived at the couple’s home for a welfare check at about 11am.

When the officers entered the residence, they found Yu’s body on the floor in a bedroom just behind where Chen had been standing.

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Police arrested Chen and took him into custody.

Yu had severe blunt-force injuries to her head, according to a detective’s statement of facts. Chen’s right hand was swollen and purple, it said, and he had blood on his clothes, legs, arms and hands as well as scratches on his arm.

A fire department official asked Chen how he injured his hand, the statement continued, to which Chen replied, “I punched my wife”.

Chen did not provide a motivation for the crime, according to the statement.