Yingying Zhang's father was quiet Thursday as he watched a judge sentence Brendt Christensen to life in prison for his daughter's rape and murder. Afterward, quiet he was not. "If you have any humanity left in your soul, please help end our torment," Ronggao Zhang urged Christensen in a statement delivered to media, per the News-Gazette. "Please let us bring Yingying home." The body of the 26-year-old visiting scholar at the University of Illinois has never been found, though her Chinese family hoped Christensen might reveal the location when given the chance to speak at his sentencing hearing. When the moment came, Christensen declined to speak with a curt, "No thank you," per WAND.
"You could have said whatever you wanted ... yet today, you could not muster a simple, 'I'm sorry,'" Judge James Shadid told the former student, who admitted to luring Yingying into his vehicle, then choking, stabbing, beating, and decapitating her at his Champaign apartment in June 2017. "We hope that every day he spends in prison he feels the pain and suffering that we feel," said Zhang, who'd hoped for the death penalty. He said life in prison "still reflects our loss in a meaningful way." But "now that the trial is over and the jury has made its decision, we ask the defendant to unconditionally tell us what he knows about Yingying's location." (Read more Yingying Zhang stories.)