Tuesday, 18 June, 2019

Defense Attorney Says His Client Killed Chinese Student 2-Years Ago

Prosecutors say Brendt Christensen killed a Chinese college student. His lawyer agreed. Ex-University of Illinois doctoral student killed visiting Chinese scholar, defense admits
Patty Aguilar | 15 June, 2019, 05:42

The defense attorney for Brendt Christensen admitted on Wednesday that the defendant kidnapped and killed Chinese visiting scholar Zhang Yingying in 2017, during the opening statements in the trial at a federal courthouse in Peoria, U.S. state of IL. All they want is to bring Zhang back home, Wang said.

Christensen has been held without bond since he was arrested in June 2017 for the abduction and presumed slaying of Zhang, a 26-year-old student at University of IL at Urbana-Champaign.

The revelation came during opening statements in the trial of Brendt Christensen, as attorneys on both sides of the closely-watched case revealed for the first time the gruesome details of his crime.

An Illinois man accused of kidnapping and killing a graduate student from China two years ago was obsessed with Ted Bundy and other serial killers, a federal prosecutor said on Wednesday on the first day of the trial of the sensational case.

Zhang was unlucky to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, Miller told jurors, saying Christensen had determined on June 9 to kill someone that day and had been cruising in his auto looking for a victim.

Zhang's parents traveled to the US from China to assist in the search for their daughter after her disappearance in 2017 and have returned to IL along with Zhang's boyfriend for the trial. Earlier, he approached a different young woman, also saying he was an undercover police officer. He also said Christensen told the informant he raped and beat Yingying before assaulting her with a baseball bat and eventually decapitating her. Zhang disappeared in June 2017 while on her way to sign an apartment lease. Christensen began trying to choke Zhang, Miller told jurors, citing a statement Christensen allegedly made to others.

"[Christensen] said she fought for her life", Miller told the jury.

Investigators alleged Christensen admitted to giving Zhang a ride, but said he dropped her off in a residential area a few blocks from where he picked her up. However, when Christensen's alcohol habits worsened, his wife told him she would leave him.

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There, they say Christensen killed the 26-year-old Zhang.

The federal death-penalty case is the first in IL since the state struck capital punishment from its books on grounds death-penalty processes were too error-prone.

Attorneys representing Zhang's estate on Friday filed a civil lawsuit against Christensen and two university-employed social workers, claiming wrongful death and negligence and raising questions about Christensen's mental health.

The jury is made up of 12 individuals who believe in the death penalty, criteria that must be met in a federal death penalty case. Tesseff portrayed Christensen's life as being in turmoil leading up to Zhang's disappearance, saying marital and drinking problems only made matters worse. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts.

At a memorial walk on June 29, 2017, Christensen's girlfriend wore a wire to record her conversations with Christensen to help the Federal Bureau of Investigation with their case. Defense attorneys for Christensen argued that the civil suit filed Tuesday by Zhang's estate against two University of IL counselors would bring forth additional evidence that would be helpful to their case. More witnesses are expected to testify.

The surveillance recordings feature the 29-year-old "explaining how he kidnapped" Zhang and "held her in his apartment against her will", according to court documents.

During his opening, Miller said Christensen's own words proved Zhang is dead.

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