The Yantai Intermediate People’s Court in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong announced the verdicts against Zhang Fan, 29; her father Zhang Lidong, 55; Lu Yingchun, 39, and two others, weeks after holding the trial.
The other two – a younger sister of Zhang Fan and a female friend of Zhang Lidong – were jailed to 10 and seven years respectively.
The court said the five people and a 12-year-old, who was tried separately, murdered the woman one evening in May after she refused to give them her number so they could recruit new members for their “all-powerful spirit” cult. The cult claims Jesus has been resurrected as a Chinese woman.
Zhang Fan and Lu called the victim “an evil spirit” and a “demon” before the group beat her with a chair, mops and kicked and trampled on her with leather shoes, the court said.
The group also forbade anyone in the fast food restaurant from intervening, the court said, calling the murder “extremely cruel.”
Zhang Fan and her father Zhang Lidong both received the death sentence, while Lu got life imprisonment and was the only one who protested the verdict in the courtroom.
China’s supreme court must review and approve all death sentences handed out by trial courts.
Both Zhangs and Lu also were convicted of using the cult to sabotage the law. The three told the court that they acted in self-defense after they were attacked by the “demon’s supernatural powers.”