Champaign man arrest, charged with kidnapping missing University of IL scholar

Missing U of I visiting student Yingying Zhang. Kidnapping suspect Brendt Christensen. Christensen will appear in a Federal Court Monday morning. The FBI believes Zhang is deceased
Disappearance of Chinese Scholar in US Raises Safety Concerns
Author

02 July, 2017

Zhang, 26, was about a month into a yearlong appointment at the University of Illinois' Urbana-Champaign campus when she vanished June 9, the Associated Press reported at the time.

Investigators with the Federal Bureau of Investigation think the student, Yingying Zhang, 26, is probably dead, a news release from the attorney's office said.

Brendt Christensen, a University of Illinois PhD physics student frm Champaign, was charged in a criminal complaint with abducting Zhang shortly after she stepped off a bus near the university campus. Minutes later, she's seen getting into a black Saturn Astra.

Christensen also allegedly used his phone in April to visit online forums with titles including "Abduction 101", "Perfect abduction fantasy," and "planning a kidnapping".

Christensen will remain in law enforcement custody pending his initial federal court appearance in Urbana scheduled on Monday, July 3, at 10 a.m., authorities said. Video from a security camera on the university campus showed her climbing into a auto and being driven away. Police said the FBI is investigating the disappearance of Zhang, a Chinese woman from a. Law enforcement agents believe she is no longer alive.

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University of Illinois Chancellor Robert Jones said that the entire campus community is saddened by the news.

Investigators later determined the auto in the video had a sunroof and cracked hubcap, like Christensen's vehicle, the affidavit states.

The woman, who was a visiting scholar at the University of Illinios, is now believed to be dead. They say they have audio recordings of Christensen explaining how he picked her up and took her back to his apartment, and held her against her will. One belonging to Christensen was first seen in an apartment complex parking lot June 12 - days after Zhang went missing - and investigators questioned him. He admits picking up an Asian woman but says he dropped her off in a residential area a few blocks away.

Zhang's father, Ronggao Zhang, traveled to IL from Nanping, China, to be closer to the search.

Zhang had a year-long position at the university's department of natural resources and environmental sciences.


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