Family shares heartbreaking details about slain U of I scholar’s remains

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

URBANA, Ill. — The father of a slain scholar who begged his daughter’s killer to reveal what he did with her remains so that they could be returned to China for burial said his family now understands that recovering them may be impossible.

Ronggao Zhang spoke at a news conference in Urbana on Wednesday about his fading hopes of finding the remains of his daughter, 26-year-old Yingying Zhang.

He said one of his lawyers, Steve Beckett, explained that Brendt Christensen told his defense team he had divided Yingying’s remains into three garbage bags that he threw into a dumpster before the dumpster’s contents were compacted and buried in a landfill in Vermillion County.

Beckett says prosecutors provided the information relayed to them by Christensen’s attorneys after the former University of Illinois doctoral student was convicted in the 2017 slaying and sentenced to life in prison last month.

Yinying’s mother Lifeng Ye had just learned of the details regarding her daughters remains earlier Wednesday, and left half-way through the news conference in tears.

The University of Illinois is setting up a fund in Yingying’s memory, with the proceeds going to help international students in times of crisis.

A memorial service for Yingying will be held Friday afternoon at the First Baptist Church in Savoy.


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