Man arrested in connection to missing scholar; Zhang presumed dead

03 July, 2017, 01:56 | Author: Roderick Gutierrez
  • Yingying Zhang was visiting U of I to do research in agricultural sciences

On Saturday, the day after the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Brendt Christensen, 28, in connection with Ms. Zhang's kidnapping, authorities offered no new details about the case.

The court document also says a search of the suspect's vehicle, the black Saturn Astra seen in surveillance video, revealed the front passenger door, next to where Zhang would've been sitting, was cleaned to a "more diligent extent". Authorities say agents believe Zhang is no longer alive based on that and other facts the investigation uncovered.

In the "Abduction 101" forum, Christensen allegedly visited sub-threads called "Perfect abduction fantasy" and "planning a kidnapping" on his phone.

Christensen wrote on LinkedIn: "I am a PhD candidate in experimental condensed matter physics at the University of IL at Urbana-Champaign".

Zhang graduated from Beijing's Peking University in 2016 with a master's degree in environmental engineering, and had a year-long position at the University of IL department of natural resources and environmental sciences.

"This is a senseless and devastating loss of a promising young woman and a member of our community", Jones said.

Brendt Christensen, a former Ph.D. candidate who had studied physics at the university, was arrested late Friday, according to a news release from the Department of Justice.

Christensen had been under surveillance when he declared that he had "kidnapped" Zhang after taking her back to his apartment.


Zhang was last seen June 9. She went missing just weeks following her arrival at the university's Urbana-Champaign campus from China in order to pursue a course in agriculture sciences.

Urbana-Champaign is one of the most popular U.S colleges for Chinese students, with more than 5600 enrolled there.

Investigators had also placed Christensen under surveillance after they interviewed him in mid-June, according to court documents.

The FBI said on June 17 that they are offering a $10,000 reward for information that helps to find Zhang, US media reported.

Authorities declined comment when asked if they had any leads on where Zhang's body might be located. Zhang had a position at the University of IL that would last for a year, "at the university's department of natural resources and environmental sciences". "I could not sleep at all last night", he said.

Christensen, of Champaign, Illinois, is in federal custody pending a court appearance scheduled for Monday.

Ms. Zhang received her master's degree in environmental engineering past year from Peking University.

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