Illinois man charged with kidnapping,
death of Chinese scholar
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[October 12, 2017]
By Suzannah Gonzales
CHICAGO (Reuters) - An Illinois man accused
of abducting a Chinese visiting scholar at the University of Illinois
faces a new charge of kidnapping resulting in death and was arraigned on
Yingying Zhang, a 26-year-old visiting scholar from southeastern China
at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, disappeared on June
9. Officials believe Zhang is dead, although no body has been found.
Brendt Christensen, a former master's student at the university, faces
one count of kidnapping resulting in death and two counts of making a
false statement to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to an
Oct. 3 indictment, which alleged the crime "involved torture or serious
physical abuse to the victim."
Christensen pleaded not guilty to all charges, the U.S. district clerk's
office in Urbana, Illinois said on Wednesday. A lawyer for Christensen
Previously Christensen, 28, was charged with one count of kidnapping and
pleaded not guilty in July.
Zhang, who had been studying photosynthesis and crop productivity at the
university, was last seen when a security camera recorded her getting
into a black car that authorities linked to Christensen, according to
Christensen was placed under surveillance by federal agents who heard
him talking about how he kidnapped Zhang, court records said.
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Brendt Christensen, 28, arrested in connection with the
disappearance of Yingying Zhang, 26, on June 9, 2017, is shown in
this booking photo in Champaign, Illinois,
U.S., provided July 5, 2017. Courtesy Macon County Sheriff's
Office/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo
A jury trial is scheduled for Feb. 27, the clerk's office said.
Conviction of kidnapping resulting in death carries a sentence of
mandatory life in prison or death.
In August, Zhang's family asked President Donald Trump to provide
additional resources to help find her.
A lawyer for Zhang's family did not immediately respond to requests
The new indictment also said Christensen told FBI agents that he
stayed at his apartment, slept and played video games all day on
June 9. The indictment said that was a lie and that he had picked up
Zhang as she waited for a bus.
(Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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