As Suspect Joined Vigil for Missing Student, FBI Listened

He described 'ideal victim,' made threats: prosecutors
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 6, 2017 10:15 AM CDT
Kidnap Suspect Allegedly Eyed 'Ideal' Victims at Victim's Vigil
Yingying Zhang   (Courtesy of the University of Illinois Police Department via AP)

When friends gathered last week at a vigil for missing University of Illinois scholar Yingying Zhang, they had no idea the man suspected of killing her was in their midst. But Brendt Christensen not only attended the June 29 event at the university's Urbana-Champaign campus while under FBI surveillance, but was recorded there describing the "characteristics of his ideal victim" for an abduction and pointing out people who fit that description, says federal prosecutor Bryan Freres, per CNN, which has a photo of Christensen among the crowd. Zhang, who authorities say got into Christensen's car at a campus bus stop on June 9, is still missing but presumed dead.

Police previously said Christensen researched kidnappings online weeks before he was recorded saying he held Zhang against her will in his apartment. At last week's vigil, he also allegedly threatened the safety of an individual to whom he'd related incriminating information, reports the News-Gazette. That person went to police, reports CNN. Christensen was arrested the day after the vigil and denied bail in a hearing on Wednesday, based in part on the recordings described by prosecutors, reports the Chicago Tribune. Christensen's lawyer had argued the 28-year-old should be released because the jail in which he is held is an inconvenient distance from his lawyers' office. (Read more kidnapping stories.)

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