Mother of man who killed Chinese scholar begs for his life

PEORIA, Ill. — The mother of a former University of Illinois student convicted of killing a Chinese scholar told the jury deciding his fate that it would be horrible if he is put to death.

Ellen Williams testified Monday that Brendt Christensen’s crime is “horrible” and she feels “bad.” But she said it would be devastating if her son gets the death penalty.

Williams’ testimony is part of the penalty phase of Christensen’s trial. The federal jury that found him guilty last month in the 2017 killing of Yingying Zhang now must decide if he should be executed or allowed to live the rest of his life in prison.

Prosecutors are pushing for the death penalty, but defense attorneys argue life in prison is punishment enough.

Williams says she frequently thinks about Zhang’s family and how horrible their ordeal is. But she says she still loves her son.

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