Prosecutors: U of I Kidnapping Suspect Attended Victim's Vigil | WGLT

Prosecutors: U of I Kidnapping Suspect Attended Victim's Vigil

Jul 6, 2017

Prosecutors say the suspect in the kidnapping of a University of Illinois scholar from China attended a vigil for the victim a day before his arrest and spoke about how she resisted.

A statement from Springfield's U.S. attorney's office followed a Wednesday detention hearing in Urbana for 28-year-old Brendt Christensen. A judge ordered he remain jailed because he's potentially dangerous.

Prosecutors said 26-year-old Yingying Zhang fought Christensen as he abducted her June 9. Prosecutors say Christensen also spoke about what makes an ideal victim. Prosecutors didn't explain to whom Christensen made the comments.

Brendt Christensen faces kidnapping charges.

Agents arrested him Friday. Attendees at Thursday's vigil also walked to the street where Zhang was last seen. Authorities believe Zhang is dead, though her body hasn't been found.

A message left for Christensen's lawyer wasn't returned.

As Wednesday’s detention hearing took place, members of Champaign-Urbana’s Chinese community demonstrated outside the courthouse, holding signs with messages like “Justice for Yingying.”

Shihao Han, a Chinese graduate student from out-of-town visiting the area, said the incident has enflamed long-standing concerns among the Chinese about their safety in the U.S.

“And people believe that the U.S. is not as secure as it is in China,” Han said. “And I think this incident will escalate all those kind of concerns about the U.S. being a not-so-secure place for Chinese students.”

Han thinks those concerns could lead to lower enrollments at the University of Illinois and other similar college campuses.

Christensen will be back in court July 14 for a preliminary hearing.

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