Man charged in disappearance of U of I visiting scholar


Missing U of I scholar Yingying Zhang

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URBANA, Ill. –Authorities say a man has been charged in Illinois with kidnapping a visiting Chinese scholar who was last seen three weeks ago.

Federal authorities say a criminal complaint charges 27-year-old Brendt Christensen of Champaign, Illinois, with kidnapping Yingying Zhang on June 9, 2017.

In its court filing in U.S. District Court in Springfield, the FBI alleges Christensen was driving the black car observed on security camera video as it stopped next to Zhang at a corner near the University of Illinois.

Zhang is observed on video entering the front passenger side of the vehicle.

The affidavit filed in support of the complaint says Christensen was under surveillance Thursday when agents overheard him explaining that he kidnapped Zhang. Authorities say based on this and other facts uncovered during the investigation, agents believe Zhang is no longer alive.

University of Illinois Chancellor Robert Jones released a statement Friday night saying:

The entire campus community is saddened by this news and our hearts are with the family of Yingying Zhang tonight. This is a senseless and devastating loss of a promising young woman and a member of our community. There is nothing we can do to ease the sadness or grief for her family and friends, but we can and we will come together to support them in any way we can in these difficult days ahead.


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