Thu, Oct 05, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Suspect charged with abducting, killing academic

AP, SPRINGFIELD, Illinois

A US grand jury on Tuesday returned a superseding indictment against a man accused in the abduction of a University of Illinois academic from China.

The new indictment accused Brendt Christensen, 28, of kidnapping resulting in the death of Yingying Zhang (章瑩穎).

If convicted of the charge, Christensen faces the death penalty or mandatory life in prison.

Christensen was initially charged with the kidnapping of 26-year-old Zhang of Nanping, China.

The new indictment said Christensen intentionally killed Zhang in “an especially heinous, cruel, or depraved manner.”

It said her death involved torture or serious physical abuse, and that he did so “after substantial planning and premeditation.”

The new indictment also said Christensen used a cellphone and a vehicle, both instruments of interstate commerce, to commit the offense.

Zhang disappeared on June 9, weeks after arriving at the central Illinois campus. Even though her body has not been found, authorities believe she is dead.

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

It said that Christensen lied when he told the FBI he stayed at his apartment, and slept and played video games all day on June 9, “when he knew full well that he drove around the University of Illinois campus on the afternoon of June 9, and picked up Y, Z as she was waiting for a bus.”

Christensen lied when he said he dropped of an Asian female in a residential area shortly after picking her up, the indictment said.

Christensen has been held in the Macon County jail since his arrest by US Marshals.

He is tentatively set to go on trial on Feb. 27 next year.

Christensen’s lawyer, Robert Tucker, said he had not seen the superseding indictment and had no comment.

Attorney Steve Beckett, who represents Zhang’s family, said he had not spoken to them on Tuesday, but said the superseding indictment “is not unexpected.”

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