24 March 2024

Five months after man's release from jail for murder of Liang Zhao, he joined in violent robbery

| Albert McKnight
ACT Law Courts

A man who took part in a murder in 2011 has now been resentenced to include his role in a violent robbery from 2022. Photo: Michelle Kroll, Region Media.

A murderer who took part in the killing of a university graduate in 2011 has been resentenced to take into account the role he played in a robbery committed just five months after his release from prison.

The man had been found guilty of aggravated robbery by joint commission over the latter crime and was resentenced to a total of 18 years’ jail by the ACT Supreme Court on Friday (22 March).

He was aged just 17 when he and then-20-year-old Taylor Schmidt wielded a baseball bat and a machete when they murdered 27-year-old Liang Zhao in Northbourne Avenue at Braddon on 4 August, 2011.

The drug and alcohol-fuelled pair, who pleaded guilty to that crime, stole Mr Zhao’s mobile phone and $21 cash.

The man was sentenced to 17 years’ jail, suspended after 10 and a half, for the killing, while Schmidt was handed about 20 years with 14 years’ non-parole.

But just 153 days after the man was released from jail for the murder, he took part in the robbery of a woman who apparently owed one of his co-offenders money.

He had taken a hidden firearm when he went to the house of the female victim, who had considered him a friend, on the night of 5 July, 2022.

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He was accompanied by another woman, who in turn let three more people into the victim’s home. Two of these people assaulted the victim in her bedroom by repeatedly punching her in her face and body as well as ripping out her hair.

Throughout the nine-minute assault, the man sat on the bed facing the victim with the gun in his lap, and at one point commented “That’s savage” in regards to a cut she received to her eye.

When she looked at him for help, he looked back without any expression. The group left with her mobile phone and house keys.

The man was arrested and spent about 600 days in custody before his sentencing hearing earlier this month.

Justice Verity McWilliam said the man didn’t assault the victim himself, but had participated in an agreement to assault her.

The judge also said that what the man and Schmidt had done to Mr Zhao was “nothing short of horrific” and involved “senseless violence”, leaving him with extensive injuries, while his robbery victim was “obviously scared” and had left her home screaming and crying before going to hospital.

The man is now 30 and has spent more than 12 years of his life in custody.

Justice McWilliam said if she imposed the six-and-a-half years’ jail remaining for his murder sentence, then the man would spend 17 years in custody and would be released without any ability for the authorities to support or supervise him. He would also have become institutionalised.

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She said it was far more preferable that there was a degree of oversight and management for that transition, which is why she would resentence him for the murder and the robbery.

“Deterrence is now more likely to be achieved by the carrot rather than the stick,” she said.

The man had experienced significant childhood disadvantage and had been addicted to drugs and alcohol, although now has strong support from his family and has been in a relationship with his partner that started two years ago.

He was resentenced to a total of 18 years’ jail to account for both offences, to be suspended after he has spent almost 13 years and four months behind bars.

As his sentence was backdated to account for time served, this means he is eligible to be released from November 2024 to comply with a good behaviour order for the remainder of his sentence.

The three co-offenders from the robbery have also all been sentenced.

As the man was involved in the murder when he was under 18, he is legally unable to be named.

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