Man suspected in U of I scholar’s disappearance indicted by federal grand jury

Photo: Brendt Christensen (left); Yingying Zhang (right)

The man suspected of kidnapping a University of Illinois visiting Chinese scholar was indicted today by a federal grand jury.

28-year-old Brendt Christensen is charged with kidnapping Yingying Zhang in Urbana, Illinois on June 9th.

According to the Dept of Justice, the indictment alleges that Christensen kidnapped and held Zhang and that he used a cell phone and a Saturn, “both instruments of interstate commerce, to commit and in furtherance of the commission of the offense.”

Zhang was last seen getting into Christensen’s car at a bus stop on that day, according to a previously filed criminal complaint. Christensen had been under surveillance about a week after the abduction.

The FBI is reportedly investigating multiple tips from people who said they’ve seen missing Zhang in the southern Illinois town of Salem, WQAD reports. Zhang has been presumed dead by the FBI.  The FBI said they are taking all tips and following through on them, according to WQAD.

A business in Salem said Zhang’s family has been in town looking for her, going off tips of sightings, WQAD said.

If Christensen is convicted, the penalty for kidnapping is up to life in prison.

The investigation is on going.