Crime Suspect in kidnapping of U. of I. scholar from China facing potential death penalty

03:05  05 october  2017
03:05  05 october  2017 Source:   MSN

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3 (Xinhua) -- A federal grand jury on Tuesday charged Brendt A. Christensen, the suspect in the kidnapping of visiting Chinese scholar Zhang Yingying, with kidnapping resulting in death . If convicted, Christensen could face mandatory life in prison or even the death penalty

A federal grand jury on Tuesday charged Brendt A. Christensen, the suspect in the kidnapping of visiting Chinese scholar Zhang Yingying, with kidnapping resulting in death . If convicted, Christensen could face mandatory life in prison or even the death penalty , said a news release by the U .S

This undated photo provided by the University of Illinois Police Department shows Yingying Zhang. Police said the FBI is investigating the disappearance of Zhang, a Chinese woman from a central Illinois university town, as a kidnapping. Zhang was about a month into a yearlong appointment at the University of Illinois' Urbana-Champaign when she disappeared June 9, 2017. (Courtesy of the University of Illinois Police Department via AP) © The Associated Press This undated photo provided by the University of Illinois Police Department shows Yingying Zhang. Police said the FBI is investigating the disappearance of Zhang, a Chinese woman from a central Illinois university town, as a kidnapping. Zhang was about a month into a yearlong appointment at the University of Illinois' Urbana-Champaign when she disappeared June 9, 2017. (Courtesy of the University of Illinois Police Department via AP) Former University of Illinois graduate student Brendt Christensen could be eligible for the death penalty if convicted on new charges filed Tuesday alleging he kidnapped and killed a visiting scholar from China in June.

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CHICAGO -- A federal grand jury on Tuesday charged Brendt A. Christensen, the suspect in the kidnapping of visiting Chinese scholar Zhang Yingying, with kidnapping resulting in death . If convicted, Christensen could face mandatory life in prison or even the death penalty

A federal grand jury on Tuesday charged Brendt A. Christensen, the suspect in the kidnapping of visiting Chinese scholar Zhang Yingying, with kidnapping resulting in death . If convicted, Christensen could face mandatory life in prison or even the death penalty

Christensen, 28, of Champaign, was charged in a superseding indictment with one count of kidnapping resulting in a death stemming from the disappearance of 26-year-old Yingying Zhang, whose body has not been found.

The federal grand jury returned the four-page indictment with the special finding that Christensen committed the offense "in an especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner, in that it involved torture or serious physical abuse to the victim," and that the crime occurred after "substantial planning and premeditation."

The indictment also charged Christensen with two new counts of making false statements to FBI agents.

Christensen could face the death penalty if convicted on the new kidnapping charge, although the decision whether to seek it will be made at a later date by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney's office in Urbana. If the death penalty is not sought, a conviction on the kidnapping count would call for mandatory life without parole.

Missing Chinese scholar's family 'sorrowful' at new charge

  Missing Chinese scholar's family 'sorrowful' at new charge CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Family members of a missing University of Illinois scholar from China say they're "sorrowful and grieved" that there's more evidence to show she has died.The statement released Wednesday from Yingying Zhang's family comes after the latest indictment against a man accused in the case. Brendt Christensen previously was charged with the 26-year-old's abduction. A new federalThe statement released Wednesday from Yingying Zhang's family comes after the latest indictment against a man accused in the case. Brendt Christensen previously was charged with the 26-year-old's abduction.

Photo: Brendt Christensen (left); Yingying Zhang (right). × Man accused of kidnapping U of I scholar could face death penalty . Bail denied for suspect in kidnapping of U of I scholar .

Suspect in Chinese student's kidnapping could face death penalty after new indictment alleges he 'tortured and killed victim'. Christensen was previously charged with kidnapping University of Illinois scholar Yingying Zhang, 26, on June 9.

Christensen, who is being held without bond, is tentatively set to go to trial Feb. 27 before U.S. District Court Judge Colin Bruce. Reached by telephone Tuesday, his lawyer, Robert Tucker, said he had not seen the superseding indictment and had no comment.

The new charges were the latest twist to a case that rattled the University of Illinois campus and sent shock waves throughout China.

Prosecutors allege Zhang, who began her research appointment in April was on her way to sign a lease at an apartment building the afternoon of June 9 and unsuccessfully tried to flag down a bus before walking to another stop. Shortly after, federal authorities allege that Christensen approached Zhang in his car and lured her inside.

Surveillance video from a nearby parking garage captured the exchange in which Zhang could be seen speaking to the driver for several moments before getting into the front passenger seat. One of Zhang's professors reported her missing by that evening, after several calls and texts went unanswered.

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— A 28-year-old man charged in the abduction of a University of Illinois scholar from China has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Man suspected in U of I scholar ’s disappearance indicted by federal grand jury. Bail denied for suspect in kidnapping of U of I scholar .

CHICAGO — A website that hosted an "Abduction 101" forum linked to a 28-year-old suspect in the kidnapping of a Chinese scholar at the University of Illinois bills itself as the most popular sexual fetish networking site on the internet — and it has faced pressure in recent months to be clearer

The investigation homed in on Christensen after police concluded his Saturn Astra was the car seen in the footage. He initially told the FBI he was home all day playing video games on the day Zhang disappeared. When he was questioned a second time three days later, Christensen changed his story, telling agents he was driving on campus, came across an Asian woman looking distressed and offered her a ride because she said she was late to an appointment.

Christensen said the woman panicked after he made a wrong turn, and he let her out of his car a few blocks from where they met. Meanwhile, police also searched his car and determined that the area where Zhang would have been sitting had been cleaned in a way to conceal evidence, FBI agents alleged in court documents.

Police also searched his phone and found visits to a sadomasochism fetish website with discussion threads on kidnapping fantasies.

The FBI also conducted audio surveillance on Christensen for several days, including when he attended a campus walk and vigil in Zhang's honor on June 29. There, Christensen was caught on tape pointing out people in the crowd and describing his "ideal victim."

Other surveillance tapes recorded Christensen allegedly admitting to having kidnapped Zhang, and describing how she fought back as he held her against her will, prosecutors said.

Police and prosecutors have not revealed the source of the recordings.

jmeisner@chicagotribune.com

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