Prosecutors to Seek Death Penalty in U of I Scholar Kidnapping

Jan 19, 2018

Federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the man accused of kidnapping University of Illinois visiting scholar YingYing Zhang.

Brendt Christensen of Champaign faces federal charges of kidnapping Zhang and committing “intentional acts of violence” that led to the Chinese native’s death --- even though her body has not been found.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the decision to have prosecutors seek the death penalty in the case.

In a news release, prosecutors say Christensen committed the kidnapping  quote , “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,” end quote.

Christensen’s trial is scheduled to begin next month in Urbana.

But defense attorneys have asked federal judge Colin Bruce to move the trial elsewhere.