Missing U of I scholar’s family appeals to Trump for help finding her

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

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — On Thursday, the parents of a Chinese woman who was abducted while studying at the University of Illinois spoke out for the first time since an arrest was made.

Investigators have said they believe 26-year-old Yingying Zhang is dead, although her body hasn't been found. The (Champaign) News-Gazette reports that Zhang's mother and younger brother flew to Illinois on Saturday. Her father and boyfriend have been in the U.S. since June 17.

Last week, the family sent a letter to President Donald Trump for help finding their daughter. At a news conference Tuesday, Yingying's father Ronggao Zhang read the letter in Chinese. Then, Yingying's boyfriend Xiaolin Hou read it in English.

"As a loving father to your own children, you can understand what we are going through," Hou read from the family's letter to Trump. "We fervently request that you direct all available federal law enforcement and investigative resources be used to find our daughter as soon as possible."

Brendt Christensen is accused of kidnapping YingYing on June 9 in Urbana, 140 miles southwest of Chicago. Investigators say she was abducted after she left campus to sign an apartment lease. They believe Christensen lured her into his car.

He has pleaded not guilty.

"We will not give up until we find her," Hou said in his own statement.