PEORIA, Ill. — Jurors in the trial of a former University of Illinois doctoral student accused of killing a visiting scholar from China watched video of the suspect explaining to an FBI agent that the woman looked “panicky” when he spotted her and offered her a ride.
The (Champaign) News-Gazette reports that jurors on Friday watched Brendt Christensen tell an FBI agent that he wasn’t in a good mood on the June 2017 day when he spotted 26-year-old Yingying Zhang as he drove near the Champaign-Urbana campus.
Christensen told agents he was feeling stir crazy that day, so he went for a drive. He said he came across Zhang and offered her a ride. She was never seen again.
Zhang’s body has never been found, but prosecutors contend Christensen kidnapped, raped and beat Zhang to death and decapitated her.
During Thursday’s testimony, prosecutors detailed Christensen’s internet records. Among them was curiosity about oxygen bleach and sodium hypochlorite — which can be used as a disinfectant and to remove odors. Those searches were made the day before Zhang disappeared.
The records also showed Christensen was reading the media coverage surrounding the case. He also repeatedly visited a University of Illinois police website, which was dedicated to updates on Zhang’s search.
Over evidence showed that Christensen bought a large duffle bag from Amazon about a week before the disappearance. That duffel bag has never been found.
The trial is in federal court in Peoria.
Defense attorneys seeking to spare him a possible death sentence told jurors during opening statements that he killed Zhang.