News Local/State

Grand Jury Indicts Christensen For Yingying Zhang Kidnapping

Brendt Christensen

Mug shot of Brendt Christensen, 28, of Champaign, who was indicted by a federal grand jury on July 12, on kidnapping charged, in connection with the June 9 disappearance of University of Illinois visiting scholar Yingying Zhang of China. Macon County Jail

The US Justice Department says a federal grand jury has indicted Brendt Christensen of Champaign with the kidnapping of visiting Chinese scholar Yingying Zhang from the University of Illinois’ Urbana-Champaign campus.

Zhang has not been seen since June 9th, when a campus surveillance camera spotted her getting into Christensen’s vehicle at a bus stop on the Urbana side of the campus.

The Justice Department release says that about 20 minutes before, Zhang had texted an apartment complex manager that she was running late but would arrive soon. A later text message from the manager to Zhang received no response. That evening, a professor at the university reported Zhang missing to University Police.

Authorities still do not know where Zhang is, but assume she is dead.

Christensen was arrested June 30, and has been held since then in connection with Zhang’s disappearance.

If convicted on the federal kidnapping charge, the penalty is up to life in prison.

Due to the grand jury’s indictment, a hearing for Christensen set for Friday in Urbana has been cancelled. The next court appearance for Christensen will be his  arraignment, which the Justice Department says will be Monday, July 20, at 3:00 pm.

Zhang's disappearance has been widely covered in China, where the story has raised questions about the safety of visiting Chinese in the U.S. and especially on college campuses.