Death Penalty Sought For Accused Kidnapper Of Yingying Zhang
Federal prosecutors say they are seeking the death penalty for Brendt Christensen, the man accused of kidnapping University of Illinois visiting scholar Yingying Zhang.
The 28-year-old Christensen of Champaign faces federal charges for kidnapping Zhang and committing “intentional acts of violence” that led to the Chinese native’s death --- even though her body has not been found.
Zhang was last seen June 9th on surveillance video at a University of Illinois campus bus stop, getting into an SUV that authorities say belonged to Christensen.
Christensen arrested June 30th, and has been held since then in the Macon County Jail in Decatur, in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the decision to have prosecutors seek the death penalty in the case. A federal judge had given the U.S. Justice Department until February 1st to tell whether they planned to seek the death penalty.
In a news release issued Friday, prosecutors say Christensen committed the kidnapping “in an especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner, in that it involved torture or serious physical abuse; and, that Christensen committed the offense after substantial planning and premeditation” .
Christensen’s trial is scheduled to begin February 27th.
Public defenders representing Christensen have asked federal judge Colin Bruce to move the trial out of Urbana, citing pre-trial publicity. The case has attracted worldwide media attention, especially among Chinese populations.