United States  

Former student convicted of killing Chinese scholar

Video Credit: Reuters Studio - Duration: 01:41s - Published
Former student convicted of killing Chinese scholar

Former student convicted of killing Chinese scholar

Attorney Judon Wong says the family of murdered Chinese scholar Yingying Zhang will seek the death penalty for 29 year old Brendt Christensen after a jury on Monday convicted him of murdering and decapitating her two years ago.

Rough Cut (no reporter narration).

0
shares
ShareTweetSavePostSend
 

An Illinois man who prosecutors described as obsessed with serial killers was found guilty on Monday of the kidnapping and decapitation murder of a Chinese graduate student two years ago and could now face the death penalty.

A U.S. District Court jury in Peoria deliberated for less than two hours before convicting Brendt Christensen, 29, of all charges in the disappearance and death of Yingying Zhang, a 26-year-old student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Zhang was reported missing on June 9, 2017, two months after coming from southeastern China to study photosynthesis and crop production at the university.

Her remains have never been found, but prosecutors said her DNA was matched to blood later found in three spots inside Christensen's bedroom.

The case has been closely watched by Chinese media, Chinese government officials and Chinese students studying in the United States.

Relatives publicly appealed to U.S. President Donald Trump for additional resources to help find Zhang two months after she vanished.

Federal prosecutors trying Christensen under U.S. kidnapping laws have said they planned to seek the death penalty if he was found guilty.

Investigators were led to Christensen through surveillance video footage captured in Urbana, 130 miles (210 km) south of Chicago, showing Zhang getting into a black car that later was traced to the defendant.

Prosecutors said Christensen took Zhang to his apartment, where she fought for her life as he bludgeoned her with a baseball bat, raped her and stabbed her in the neck before cutting off her head.

Details of the crime, including the decapitation, were revealed by Christensen himself in conversations with his then-girlfriend secretly recorded for FBI agents investigating the case before his arrest, according to trial testimony.

Defense lawyers conceded during the trial that their client had killed Zhang, though they disputed particulars in prosecutors' account of events.

During closing arguments on Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Eugene Miller told jurors that Christensen had spent up to six months planning the murder and had chosen Zhang because she was small of stature and appeared an easy target.

"He raped her, he murdered her, and then spent the next three weeks trying to cover up the crime," Miller said.

In their own summation on Monday, Christensen's lawyers suggested they hoped to persuade the jury to spare his life during the penalty phase of the trial, which was set to begin July 8.

"This is not the ultimate decision.

You have to realize there's more," attorney Elisabeth Pollock told jurors.

Christensen, a onetime master's student at the university, sat expressionless in court as he was pronounced guilty on the charge of kidnapping resulting in death, as well as two counts of lying to federal investigators, capping an eight-day trial.

Earlier in the trial, prosecutors characterized Christensen as having a fascination with serial killers, including Ted Bundy, who murdered dozens of women during the 1970s.

The victim's father, Ronggao Zhang, read a statement outside the courthouse on Monday on behalf of the family thanking the jury for "this step towards justice." "We have missed Yingying tremendously in the past two years," he said.

"As of today, we still could not imagine how we could live the rest of our lives without her."



Related news from verified sources

Ex-University of Illinois doctoral student killed visiting Chinese scholar, defense admits

The defense attorney's for the former University of Illinois doctoral student admitted to the jury...
FOXNews.com - Published Also reported by •Seattle Times


Jury selection begins at trial of Chinese scholar's slaying

A federal judge began vetting would-be jurors Monday in the death-penalty trial of a former...
FOXNews.com - Published Also reported by •Seattle TimesUSATODAY.comCBS News




Tweets about this


Related videos from verified sources

Closing Arguments Set In Trial For Murder Of Chinese Scholar [Video]

Closing Arguments Set In Trial For Murder Of Chinese Scholar

Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday in the trial of former University of Illinois doctoral student Brendt Christensen, charged with kidnapping and killing Chinese scholar Yingying Zhang in 2017.

Credit: CBS 2 Chicago     Duration: 00:27Published
'She Is Gone. Forever': Brendt Christensen Bragged About Killing Yingying Zhang, Ex-Girlfriend Testifies [Video]

'She Is Gone. Forever': Brendt Christensen Bragged About Killing Yingying Zhang, Ex-Girlfriend Testifies

Prosecutors are expected to wrap up their case against former University of Illinois student Brendt Christensen on Friday in the murder of Chinese scholar Yingying Zhang. Jurors have heard..

Credit: CBS 2 Chicago     Duration: 01:50Published