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Chinese grad student found beaten to death near USC campus

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Chinese graduate student at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles has been found dead in his off-campus apartment after being assaulted late at night on his way home, police and university officials said.

The body of Xinran Ji, 24, an electrical engineering student who enrolled at USC in the fall of 2013, was discovered at about 7 a.m. local time Thursday morning, a few blocks away from where police say he had been attacked nearly six hours earlier.

No arrests had been made as of Friday morning in the assault, which university officials said appeared to be an isolated incident.

It came two years after two other USC graduate engineering students from China were shot to death as they sat in a parked car together in a neighborhood adjacent to the campus in what police said was a robbery attempt gone wrong.

Two men were later arrested and charged with the double-slaying, a crime that stunned the prestigious private university. One suspect pleaded guilty to two counts of murder earlier this year and was sentenced to life in prison. His co-defendant is still awaiting trial.

Investigators believe the victim in the latest case was struck with some kind of blunt object when assaulted by at least three individuals on a street corner at about 12:45 a.m. but managed to make it back to his apartment before he was found dead, police said.

No further details of the attack were disclosed, but a statement issued by university provost Elizabeth Garrett said the student appeared to have died from a head injury.

"From all early indications, this was an isolated incident and there was and is no apparent threat to the campus community," she said.

Ji's family in China were informed of his death and were making arrangements to travel to Los Angeles, according to the dean of USC's engineering school, Yannis Yorsos.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Richard Chang)

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