Family of murdered Chinese scholar pleads with killer to reveal location of remains after he gets life sentence

The family of a Chinese scholar who was murdered near the University of Illinois in 2017 pleaded with the killer to reveal the location of her remains after a judge sentenced him to a life in prison.

Brendt Christensen was handed a life sentence on Thursday after a jury failed to reach unanimous verdict on whether to give him the death penalty. The 30-year-old former doctoral student last month was convicted for abducting Yingying Zhang from a bus stop, then raping and choking her before fatally beating her to death with a bat and decapitating her.

Zhang, a 26-year-old from China, came to the United States as a visiting scholar in April 2017 to begin post-grad research at the University of Illinois. She vanished the morning of June 9, 2017 while she was on the way to sign a lease for her new apartment and she has not been seen since.

Her remains were never recovered.

Following the sentencing hearing, Zhang’s father, Ronggao Zhang, called on Christensen to tell authorities what he did with her body so that the family may find peace.

“Now that the trial is over and the jury has made its decision, we ask the defendant to unconditionally tell us what he knows about Yingying’s location,” he said, according WAND

“If you have any humanity left in your soul, please help end our torment. Please let us bring Yingying home.”

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He added that while the family had been pushing for the death penalty, the life sentence still “reflects our loss in a meaningful way.”

“We hope that every day he spends in prison he feels the pain and suffering that we feel for the loss of Yingying,” Ronggao Zhang said.

Illinois abolished the death penalty in 2011, but it can still be imposed in federal cases like Zhang’s.

During the investigation, authorities said Christensen initially struggled to remember his whereabouts the day he abducted Zhang, but later changed his story and admitted that he offered an Asian woman a ride, according to a criminal complaint. On June 29, 2017 Christensen described in detail to his girlfriend how he killed the missing student, unaware that she’d been recording the conversation.

His apartment was subsequently searched, and he was arrested the following day.

“Tragically, a young woman’s life was cut short by the evil crimes perpetrated in this case,” Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski said in a statement.

“The Department of Justice insisted on holding the defendant accountable to fullest extent of the law and hopes that today’s outcome delivers some measure of justice for Yingying and her family."

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