FBI: Grad Student Taken by Man Who Visited Kidnapping Sites

Authorities believe 26-year-old Yingying Zhang is dead
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 1, 2017 2:05 PM CDT
FBI: Grad Student Abducted by Man Who Visited Kidnapping Sites
An arrest has been made in connection with the disappearance of 26-year-old Chinese grad student Yingying Zhang.   (Courtesy of the University of Illinois Police Department via AP)

Authorities believe a Chinese grad student missing in Illinois is dead, abducted by a man who researched kidnappings on a fetish website, CNN reports. Yingying Zhang, 26, was last seen on surveillance video June 9 getting into a black Saturn Astra on the University of Illinois campus. According to the Chicago Tribune, investigators focused on the Astra, which video showed appeared to be circling the area at the time. The Astra led them to 28-year-old Brendt Christensen, who drove a matching car. In his first interview, authorities say Christensen said he was sleeping or playing video games around the time Zhang was picked up, the Washington Post reports. But during the second interview, he admitted to picking up an Asian woman around that time because she looked "distressed." He said he dropped her off a few blocks away.

Investigators say the passenger door of Christensen's Astra was cleaned to a "more diligent extent" than the rest of the car. They set up surveillance on Christensen, and allegedly recorded him Thursday saying he kidnapped Zhang and held her against her will in his apartment. He's been charged with kidnapping, though no murder charges have been filed. Authorities haven't said what leads them to believe Zhang is dead. Investigators say Christensen's phone shows he visited forums with names like "Abduction 101" and "planning a kidnapping" on a social networking site focused on fetishes. Zhang graduated from China's Peking University last year with a master's degree in environmental engineering and was continuing her education in Illinois. (More kidnapping stories.)

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