Case 176

Yingying Zhang

*** Content Warning: sexual assault ***

In 2017, the future looked bright for 26-year-old Yingying Zhang as she travelled from her hometown in China to study environmental science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. But on June 9 2017, Yingying left work to attend an appointment and never returned.  

CCTV footage revealed that Yingying had been picked up by someone driving a black Saturn Astra. Investigators quickly realised that they weren’t dealing with a missing person case; this was a kidnapping. Their digging soon led them to a prime suspect: a self-professed serial killer named Brendt Christensen.



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ABC News 20/20 – ‘Undercover Girlfriend’



Affidavit for Brendt Christensen arrest

US v Christensen – defence motion to suppress evidence

US v Christensen Vol 8A

Transcript of Terra Bullis’s body wire

Christensen’s first interview

USA v Christensen Orders



US police seek information on car where missing Chinese scholar last seenChina Daily

Police seek help to find missing U. of I. scholarChicago Tribune

FBI offers reward to find studentsThe Pantagraph

Chinese scholar’s disappearance shakes up U. of I.The Pantagraph

Mystery of missing Chinese scholar – Daily Press

Walk, concert for Yingying ZhangThe News-Gazette

UI prof on former grad student’: ‘Utter shockThe News-Gazette

It’s creepy, how he walkedThe News-Gazette

Jim Dey: Not much to see inside federal courtroomThe News-Gazette

Emotions flow outside courthouse as UI scholar remains missingThe News-Gazette

Missing U. of I. student’s family speaks of ordealChicago Tribune

Christensen attorneys seek to quitHerald and Review

Superseding indictment: Christensen charged with kidnapping resulting in scholar’s deathThe News-Gazette

Search for Yingying Zhang: Family returning to China for mom’s healthThe News-Gazette

Memorial service planned on anniversary of UI scholar’s disappearance – The News-Gazette

Memorial garden dedicated to missing scholar Yingying ZhangThe Daily Illini

Christensen trial moved to PeoriaThe News-Gazette

Reporter’s Notebook: Complete notes from the Christensen

Accused U. of I. killer’s ex-lover tells of wearing wireChicago Tribune

Christensen’s ex-girlfriend on wearing wire: ‘I wanted to know why he was lyingThe News-Gazette

Slain UI scholar’s family: ‘Emotional distress has been… unbearableThe News-Gazette

Jury to decide fate of man who killed Chinese scholar – Chicago Tribune

Christensen sentencing: ‘The only question that remains is when his death occursThe News-Gazette

Prosecutor: Death penalty warranted – Journal Gazette

Father of slain scholar: ‘It’s completely unbearableChicago Tribune

Christensen sentencing, day 2: ‘How am I supposed to carry on living?The News-Gazette

Christensen avoids death penalty after jury says it cannot reach unianimous verdictThe News-Gazette

Yingying Zhang murder: anger in China as US killer of scholar spared death penaltyThe Guardian

U. of I. names endowment in honor of slain scholar Yingying ZhangWTTW

Yingying Zhang’s family told her body likely in landfill near Danville, but ‘may be impossible’ to recoverCBS Chicago 

Yingying Zhang’s family: ‘When we find her, we will leave – The News-Gazette

He is a heartless and evil person – The News-Gazette

Family of slain Chinese scholar holds memorialABC News

Scholar’s family to give $20,000 for help in caseThe Times

Brendt Christensen moved to Kentucky prison to serve out life sentenceWTTW

Police officers, detective to be honored in Yingying Zhang caseThe Daily Illini

A Chinese scholar dreamed of coming to America. And then she vanishedDaily Beast

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