Chinese Scholar's Family Will Request Death Penalty for Convicted Killer

A lawyer says the family of a Chinese scholar will ask a federal jury to recommend that the man convicted of abducting and killing her be put to death.

The jury found former University of Illinois doctoral student Brendt Christensen guilty Monday in the kidnapping and slaying of the 26-year-old Yingying Zhang.

Christensen looked straight ahead and showed no emotion as a guilty verdict was announced against him in the 2017 killing of Zhang, a Chinese scholar visiting the University of Illinois.

Jurors convicted him in Peoria federal court Monday afternoon after less than 90 minutes of deliberations. Zhang was abducted at a bus stop as she headed to sign an off-campus apartment lease. Her body was never found.

The guilty verdict was expected because Christensen's attorneys acknowledged from the start that he raped and stabbed Zhang. Prosecutors say he beat her to death with a baseball bat and decapitated her.

The case now heads to sentencing to determine whether Christensen should receive the death penalty. Illinois no longer has capital punishment, but because it's a federal case that is an option. The judge said Monday that the sentencing phase will begin July 8.

Zhidong Wang represents Zhang's family. He told reporters shortly after the verdict that the family has already asked prosecutors to request the death penalty.

With Zhang's parents standing behind him, Wang says the family still can't imagine how they will spend the rest of their lives without her.

Her body has never been found.

Nonetheless, Wang said the family believes other Chinese families should still send their children to study in the United States. He called the killing an isolated incident.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us