Yingying Zhang

U.S. prosecutors have told a judge they will seek the death penalty against a 28-year-old man charged with the kidnapping and killing of a University of Illinois scholar from China.

Federal prosecutors filed a notice Friday with the U.S. District Court in central Illinois. It cites, among other factors, that Brendt Christensen's alleged killing of Yingying Zhang involved torture.

Christensen is charged in the June kidnapping and death of the 26-year-old. Her body hasn't been found, but authorities say that they have evidence she's dead.

Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media

The family of Yingying Zhang hopes they will get answers about her disappearance when her accused kidnapper goes on trial next year. For the accused, Brendt Christensen, it is the chance to get his day in court. Christensen's federal trial on the charge of kidnapping resulting in death is scheduled to begin February 27th, 2018.

University of Illinois Police

An October 11 arraignment date has been set for Brendt Christensen, after a federal grand jury returned a new indictment accusing the alleged kidnapper of Yingying Zhang of murdering her as well.

Photo Provided by University of Illinois Police

Lawyers for Brendt Christensen, the 27-year-old man accused of kidnapping Yingying Zhang, are asking a judge’s permission to withdraw from the case.

Attorneys Thomas, Evan and Anthony Bruno have been representing Christensen, who’s accused of kidnapping University of Illinois visiting scholar Yingying Zhang.

Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media

Brendt Christensen entered a “not guilty” plea Thursday in a federal courtroom in Urbana to the charge of kidnapping a visiting scholar from China. The hearing lasted less than five minutes.

Prosecutors accuse Christensen, a recent University of Illinois graduate student, of abducting Yingying Zhang from a campus bus stop June 9.

Photo Provided by University of Illinois Police

The family of missing Chinese scholar Yingying Zhang has increased the amount of reward money for information about her location to $50,000.

By the time authorities arrested a suspect for her kidnapping, they had come to believe that the visiting scholar at the University of Illinois was dead.

But her family and boyfriend have not given up hope that she is still alive. At a news conference, Xiaolin Hou spoke of his girlfriend in the present tense.

The Justice Department says a federal grand jury has indicted Brendt Christensen of Champaign with the kidnapping of visiting Chinese scholar Yingying Zhang from the University of Illinois’s Urbana campus.

Zhang has not been seen since June 9, when a campus surveillance camera spotted her getting into Christensen’s vehicle. Authorities assume she is dead.

Christensen was arrested June 30, and has been held since then in connection with Zhang’s disappearance.

Due to the grand jury’s indictment, a hearing for Christensen set for Friday in Urbana has been canceled.

University of Illinois Police

Investigators say surveillance cameras at the University of Illinois helped find a suspect in the disappearance of a Chinese scholar.

The News-Gazette reports the footage showed Yingying Zhang getting into a black Saturn Astra before she disappeared on June 9 in Urbana. The video was made public after Zhang was reported missing.

Rockford PD

The Rockford Police Department is rolling out a new, five-week women's self-defense class, and it’s already reached capacity weeks before it’s scheduled to start.

The class aims to boost situational awareness. Deputy Rockford Police Chief Mike Dalke said it's half the battle in self-protection. 

The defense attorney for a man accused of kidnapping a University of Illinois scholar from China says his client deserves the "presumption of innocence."

Tom Bruno represents 28-year-old Brendt Christensen, who is accused of kidnapping 26-year-old Yingying Zhang and is jailed pending trial. Authorities believe she's dead, although her body hasn't been found. Christensen was arrested Friday.

Bruno said Thursday that he doesn't think "a negative inference" can be made from prosecutors' statements that Christensen marched in a vigil for Zhang a day before he was arrested.

Photo Provided by University of Illinois Police

The FBI says it has arrested a Champaign man in the disappearance of a visiting University of Illinois scholar. It also says it believes the Chinese scholar, 26-year-old Yingying Zhang, is dead.

The FBI it arrested 27-year-old Brendt Christensen on Friday.

The criminal complaint provided by the FBI says Christensen is charged with kidnapping. He will make his first appearance in federal court on Monday.

The FBI did not say why it believes Zhang is dead, only that information discovered during the search led agents to that conclusion.