News Local/State

Jury Selection Underway In Trial Of Visiting Scholar’s Accused Killer

The Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Peoria, Illinois.

The Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in downtown Peoria, where jury selection is underway for the trial of Brendt Christensen, accused of the 2017 kidnapping and murder of U of I visiting scholar Yingying Zhang of China. ThreeOneFive/English Wikipedia (CC0 3.0)

Jury selection for the capital murder trial of Brent Christensen enters its second day Tuesday at the federal courthouse in Peoria.

Christensen is accused of kidnapping visiting scholar Yingying Zhang of China from the University of Illinois Urbana campus and then killing her in June 2017. Her body has not been found.

Christensen sat quietly in the courtroom Monday, in a blue dress shirt and tan pants as Judge James Shadid questioned more than two dozen people.

The judge is looking for a jury pool of 70 who will be able to serve into July. That’s to hear from a list of witnesses numbering more than 140, and to spend additional time on the sentencing phase if Christensen is found guilty.

13 people qualified to go forward on Monday. Judge Shadid will ultimately seat 12 jurors and six alternates. The jury will not be sequestered.

Zhang’s parents, who flew in from China, were in the courtroom for the beginning of jury selection, supported by two attorneys and two U of I law students acting as interpreters.  The Chinese Consul General for Chicago is also attending the trial.

(UPDATE: This story was updated from Monday afternoon, with additional details - JM)