Ex-Student Faces Death Penalty Over Missing Chinese Woman

Prosecutors say Brendt Christensen killed woman in 'especially heinous' manner
By Linda Hervieux,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 4, 2017 10:05 AM CDT
Man Faces Death Penalty in Murder of Chinese Student
Yingying Zhang, 26, got into Brendt Christensen's car on June 9. Her body has not been found.   (Courtesy of the University of Illinois Police Department via AP, File)

A man who liked to surf kidnapping-fetish websites will face the death penalty in the disappearance of a Chinese graduate student. A federal grand jury on Tuesday slapped Brendt Christensen, 28, with one count of kidnapping resulting in the death of Yingying Zhang, 26, whose body has not been found, the Chicago Tribune reports. The indictment, updating existing charges, says Christensen killed the University of Illinois student "in an especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner" involving "torture or serious physical abuse to the victim." Christensen, an ex-grad student, allegedly carried out the crime after "substantial planning and premeditation." The FBI questioned the suspect after determining his Saturn was the car captured on surveillance video that picked up Zhang, who was late for an appointment, at a campus bus stop on June 9.

She is missing and presumed dead. Christensen is also charged with two counts of lying to the FBI when he said he was playing video games and sleeping on the day Zhang disappeared, when, the indictment says, "he knew full well" he offered her a ride. He allegedly lied again when he said he dropped her off a short time later. The FBI says he took Zhang back to his apartment. A lawyer for Christensen , who is being held without bail, had no comment, but an attorney for Zhang's family calls the new charges "not unexpected," per CBS News. Christensen's trial is set for Feb. 27. Cops say he was recorded at a vigil for Zhang describing the "characteristics of his ideal [kidnapping] victim." (More Brendt Christensen stories.)

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