Man accused in kidnapping, killing of U of I Chinese scholar pleads not guilty to new charges

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

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The man accused of kidnapping and killing a Chinese visiting scholar at the university of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to new harsher charges.

Brendt Christensen, 28, was previously charged with abducting Yingying Zhang. Last week, it was upped to the more serious crime of kidnapping resulting in death.

Zhang’s mother traveled from China to Urbana for Wednesday’s hearing.

It was the first time she had seen her daughters alleged killer.

The News Gazette reported that she broke down in tears, and needed help out of the courtroom.

Her daughter’s body hasn’t been found.

Christensen faces the death penalty or mandatory life in prison if convicted.​