On Wednesday, a federal grand jury in Illinois indicted Brendt Christensen in connection with the disappearance of Chinese visiting scholar, Zhang Yingying.
Christensen, 28, is a former doctoral candidate at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where Zhang, 26, was studying. His professors have described him as “completely normal,” saying that there was nothing in his past that made them suspect he was capable of doing something like this.
Zhang, who had been in the US for about a month, disappeared on the afternoon of June 9th. After telling friends that she was going to sign a lease on an apartment, she was last seen on surveillance camera entering a black Saturn Astra near a bus stop.
The FBI later tracked the vehicle to Christensen, placing him under surveillance. On June 29th, police heard him say on an audio recording that he had kidnapped Zhang and held her in his apartment against her will. On Christensen’s phone, they found searches to a forum called “Abduction 101” with visits to subthreads titled “Perfect abduction fantasy” and “planning a kidnapping.”
Before being arrested, Christensen was spotted attending a vigil for Zhang at the university campus.
Christensen’s arraignment is scheduled for July 20th where he will formally enter his plea. If he is convicted, he faces up to life in prison. Zhang’s boyfriend has said that he hopes his girlfriend’s kidnapper will face the “harshest punishment.”
While federal authorities may have Christensen, they are still searching for Zhang, presumed dead. So far several leads have gone nowhere.
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