Born to a poor family in 1968, Yang Xinhai was described as clever and introverted by his parents. While his intelligence may have been admired by his parents, Xinhai dropped out of school in 1985 when he was 17 and began a wandering life. He picked up work around the country, finding employment as a general laborer.
Xinhai eventually got himself in trouble though, as he was sentenced to a labor camp in 1988 and again in 1991 for theft. Thievery pales in comparison to his next crime- rape. He was sentenced to five years for the crime in 1996, but was released in 1999. 1999 was also the year that Xinhai began the murders that would make him infamous.
While some newspapers publicized that Xinhai's murders were spurned by having his heart broken by a woman who left him when she discovered his incarcerations, his motives remain enigmatic. What we do know is that Xinhai traveled among the northeast provinces of China, entering people's homes and often killing everyone inside. The murders were committed with a variety of tools, ranging from hammers, to shovels, to axes. Xinhai was methodical in his crimes, always wearing new clothes to each attack and sporting shoes a few sizes too big to throw off the trail of investigators.
During a routine police inspection in Cangzhou, Xinhai was arrested for acting suspicious in an entertainment venue. When he was brought in, the police connected him to the serial murders. Finally caught, Xinhai confessed to 65 murders and 23 rapes.
With his DNA connected to a variety of crime scenes and Xinhai's own confession, his conviction was assured. The trial- which happened behind closed doors- lasted an hour and resulted in the death penalty. Xinhai refused to appeal the case, seemingly accepting his fate. The only clue he gave as to why he killed was a vague description of how killing created a desire in him that compelled him to kill more.
Xinhai was executed by firearm on February 14, 2004.