Courtesy of Tom Breen

Qinxuan Pan pleaded guilty to the murder of Yale graduate student Kevin Jiang ENV ’22 on Thursday, more than three years after the murder.

Pan, a former Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher, will face 35 years in prison as part of his plea agreement. Pan is due back in court on April 25 for his disposition hearing, which will include his sentencing, according to court records.

Pan’s plea, entered in Superior Court in New Haven, concludes a case that made national headlines for the murder of a Yale student and the three-month-long manhunt that followed.

“I can’t say this brings the family justice. I hope it does,” New Haven Police Chief Karl Jacobson told the News Thursday evening. “I think a 35-year sentence is a large sentence … I hope this brings the family justice.”

Molly Arabolos, Pan’s attorney, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. New Haven State’s Attorney John P. Doyle Jr. also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Jiang, a 26-year-old student at the School of the Environment, was shot and killed on Feb. 6, 2021, in New Haven’s East Rock neighborhood. The shooting occurred just a week after he proposed to his fiance, Zion Perry GRD ’26, whom Pan knew at MIT. Police identified Pan as a person of interest on Feb. 10, but Pan evaded police until May 13, 2021, when he was detained by United States Marshalls in Montgomery, Alabama.

Pan had been held in custody for the past three years, as judges granted Pan and his attorneys multiple extensions to review evidence. In March 2022, Pan’s lawyer claimed that Pan was having difficulty reading through documents related to the case because he had limited access to the prison library. 

In September 2022, Pan’s attorney requested State Superior Court Judge Jon Alander LAW ’78 to order a “competency exam.” Results from the exam that Alander granted deemed Pan fit for trial in early November 2022.

Pan first faced evidence in court in December 2022 over two days of probable cause hearings. Several witnesses who testified at the hearings described how they saw Pan flee the scene in a SUV and forensic scientists testified that they had found evidence inside the SUV, further linking Pan to the crime scene.

“I hope to see justice soon,” Jiang’s mother Linda Liu told the News after the first probable cause hearing on Dec. 6, 2022. “Not for money or fame but for the truth.”

On Dec. 8, 2022, Alander ruled that there was probable cause linking Pan to Jiang’s murder. Two days after Alander’s ruling, Pan pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against him.

In April 2023, Arabolos — a public defender — was assigned to Pan’s case, replacing his private criminal defense attorneys. Arabolos represented Pan at his hearing on Thursday, during which Pan pleaded guilty. 

Jacobson attributed the guilty plea to overwhelming evidence from the prosecutors that linked Pan to the murder.

“The justice system takes time for a reason,” Jacobson said. “I think the fact that he gave a plea shows you that we had an overwhelming case with lots of evidence. I’m proud of the work of the state’s attorney’s office who prepared for trial and gave them no other choice but to plead out.”

Pan’s sentencing hearing will take place on April 25 at the New Haven Courthouse at 235 Church St.

Nathaniel Rosenberg and Sophie Sonnenfeld contributed reporting.

Hannah Kotler covers Cops & Courts and Transportation for the City desk. She is a sophomore in Ezra Stiles majoring in Ethics, Politics, Economics.
Kenisha Mahajan covers Cops & Courts for the City desk. She is a first-year in Benjamin Franklin College from Queens, New York majoring in ethics, politics and economics.