Suspect charged of kidnapping Chinese scholar Yingying Zhang indicted
A federal grand jury Wednesday returned the indictment that charges 28-year-old Brendt Christensen with kidnapping UIUC Chinese visiting scholar Yingying Zhang.
A photo of Zhang Yingying released by the police.[Photo: police.illinois.edu]
Acting U.S. Attorney Patrick D. Hansen and FBI Special Agent in Charge Sean Cox of Springfield Division announced the indictment return Wednesday on the website of the U.S. Department of Justice.
The preliminary hearing that had been scheduled on July 14 for the case has been cancelled. And the date for arraignment for Christensen will be scheduled by the U.S. Clerk of the Court in Urbana, where the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) is located.
The indictment alleges that Christensen kidnapped and held Yingying Zhang on June 9. The penalty for kidnapping is up to life in prison if convicted.
Christensen was previously arrested and charged by criminal complaint on June 30. On July 5, U.S. Magistrate Judge Eric Long ordered that Christensen remain detained in custody pending trial.
Brendt Christensen was arrested on June 30, 2017 in connection with the disappearance of Yingying Zhang. [Photo: VCG]
Zhang was last seen entering a black Saturn Astra on June 9. According to an affidavit previously filed with the court, the car allegedly driven by Christensen had stopped next to Zhang at an intersection in Champaign, and then pulled away.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), University of Illinois Police Department and the Illinois State Police are continuing the investigation.
U.S. law enforcement investigating Zhang's case believe Zhang is deceased, based on facts presented in court and court documents and other facts uncovered during the ongoing investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Bryan Freres and Eugene Miller are representing the government on behalf of the U.S. Attorney's Office, Urbana Division, in this case.
The U.S. Attorney's Office, Urbana Division, reminds the public that an indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.