A man was sentenced to death for kidnapping and caging two girls in a dungeon and raping nine other women, said a verdict of the Intermediate People's Court of Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province, on Sunday.
Zeng Qiangbao, a 40-year-old worker in a steel factory in Wuhan, was convicted of rape, illegally imprisoning, robbery and forcible seizure, according to the verdict.
The court heard that Zeng had caged two teenage girls in a dungeon for 590 days and 317 days as sex slaves until they were rescued by police on May 14 last year. He also raped another nine women from July 2007 to May 2010, the prosecutor said.
According to the prosecutor, on Sept 16, 2008, Zeng captured 16-year-old Hu and took her to a dungeon under his house and raped her.
On July 2, 2009, Zeng kidnapped a 19-year-old girl surnamed Zhou and sexually assaulted her. The girl was also kept in the dungeon.
The girls were repeatedly beaten and raped by Zeng, the prosecutor said.
The two were rescued on May 14, 2010, after a man surnamed Du visited his friend's electronics repair shop and found a note in a partially dismantled television. It read: "Help. I've been held prisoner underground for more than a year."
Along with the words was a hand-drawn map that showed where the girls were being kept, as well as the telephone number and address of Zhou's family.
Du called the number and informed the father, who lived just 200 meters from where his daughter was being held. The father immediately called police and arrived at the scene a few hours later.
The police later rushed to the scene and found the two girls naked and on the verge of death.
A week before the rescue, Zeng was detained by the local police for allegedly raping a woman who later reported him to the police.
However, Zeng said nothing to the police about the girls in the dungeon when police interrogated him.
The case shocked the media and the public, and Zeng was referred to as a "dungeon devil".
"Zeng, who devastated the physical and psychological health of the girls and exerted an extremely negative influence on society, should be severely punished," said the verdict.
After the verdict was announced, Zeng said he would appeal to a higher court, claiming the sentence is too severe as he didn't cause death or pregnancy. He also claimed he has a mental problem and will apply for psychiatric evaluation.
Residents of Zeng's hometown, Xujiagang, a remote village in suburban Wuhan, were shocked as Zeng had been an "introverted, silent and honest person" in their minds. They said he had been divorced and once lived with his mother.
A 60-year-old neighbor surnamed Xu told China Daily that "he was the last person in the village I would have expected to do a thing like this".
Li Meijin, a professor of crime psychology at Chinese People's Public Security University, said Zeng's behavior should be seen as sexual perversion and he should take full responsibility.
"The key factor to see if one is mentally ill is to see whether he or she is able of protecting himself or herself while committing crimes," Li told China Daily, "In this case, Zeng was able to control two girls and kept others from knowing for so long, I would say he has normal consciousness."