Citizens in Changchun, China, mourn the death of a 2-month-old boy who police… (AFP/Getty Images )
BEIJING -- Thousands in the northeastern city of Changchun mourned during a candlelight vigil Tuesday night for a 2-month-old boy who officials say was strangled to death by a carjacker.
Xu Haobo was sleeping in the backseat of his parent's SUV early Monday morning when his father stopped for a few minutes to turn on the heat in a store the family owned, authorities said.
"He left his kid in the car with the heat on, and he didn't take the keys," a bystander at the scene in Changchun later told TV reporters. "He was inside for a bit, and when he looked outside, there was nobody there."
The baby’s unintended abduction captivated China and led to one of the largest manhunts in recent memory. By 7:30 Monday morning, provincial radio had broadcast a notice asking listeners to watch out for the family's gray Toyota RAV4 and the infant. The search lasted into the next day, with taxi drivers joining a police search that stretched into neighboring provinces.
"We night drivers have all come out, we're calling each other, we were out with the day shift," a taxi driver was quoted telling the provincial television station Monday night.
Other media outlets described citizens driving around Changchun with their breastfeeding wives to provide for the infant in case he was found.
On Tuesday morning, police reported, inspectors identified the stolen car in a residential parking lot 20 miles outside the city. The infant's clothing was found nearby.
The search was suspended late Tuesday when Jilin province police announced that a suspect had turned himself in and confessed to strangling the child and dumping the body in the snow. The suspect was identified as a 48 year-old army veteran, Zhou Xijun, who had previously served time in a labor camp on charges of molesting a woman.
The tragic ending led an emotional outpouring of more than half a million comments on Chinese blogs.
"Death's too easy! Lock him up. Bet the people inside won't let him off! Let him rot!" one outraged microblogger commented on the provincial police blog.
"They should have executed him on the spot, or given him the lingering death," wrote another blogger, referring to a kind of torture used in imperial China.
Some Chinese bloggers contrasted the tragic outcome to recent cases in Britain and the United States in which carjackers abandoned the vehicles once the realized they'd taken babies as well. In one case last month in the Bronx, the suspected thief called 911 with the location of the car to make sure the baby wouldn't get cold.
In Changchun, thousands of people marched downtown on Tuesday night, holding candles to mourn the dead baby. Some brought toys and flowers. Lights throughout the city were dimmed in respect for the boy.