PEORIA — An Illinois man accused of kidnapping and killing a graduate pupil from China two years in the past was obsessive about Ted Bundy and different serial killers, a federal prosecutor stated on Wednesday on the primary day of the trial of the sensational case.
Brendt Christensen, 29, may face the loss of life penalty if he’s convicted within the June 2017 abduction and homicide of Yingying Zhang, a 26-year-old pupil on the College of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 130 miles (210 km) south of Chicago. Zhang’s physique has by no means been discovered.
Christensen’s protection lawyer acknowledged in his opening assertion that his consumer killed Zhang however disputed the prosecution’s model of occasions.
“It’s good to know who Brendt was and what he was going by way of — a downward spiral in his life,” George Taseff advised the jury as he sought to guard his consumer from the loss of life penalty.
Whereas the state of Illinois has outlawed capital punishment, a federal trial allowed prosecutors to hunt the loss of life penalty.
Christensen, who obtained a grasp’s diploma in physics from the college, has been charged with homicide, kidnapping and mendacity to federal investigators. He has pleaded not responsible to all counts.
Christensen appeared in court docket carrying a blue shirt, fingers cuffed behind his again. The trial is being held in Peoria, 90 miles (145 km) northwest of Champaign-Urbana.
Eugene Miller, an assistant U.S. lawyer for central Illinois, stated Christensen was obsessive about Bundy, who killed dozens of ladies in 1970s, and different serial killers.
“He kidnapped her, he murdered her, and he lined up the crime,” Miller advised the jury in his opening assertion.
Earlier than the crime he had researched find out how to abduct somebody and bought a really massive duffel bag, he stated. On the day of the homicide, Christensen was on the lookout for a sufferer when he discovered Zhang, who was small and had restricted English, Miller stated.
Christensen took Zhang to his house the place she fought for her life as he hit her over the top with a baseball bat, raped her and stabbed her within the neck earlier than reducing off her head, Miller stated.
“Her blood ran down the wall,” Miller stated, as Zhang’s kinfolk listened to an interpreter by way of headsets. “Hundreds of miles away from her dad and mom, alone with a stranger, she breathes her final breath.”
Protection lawyer Taseff advised the jury he didn’t dispute that Christensen killed Zhang, which he known as “a horrible crime.” However he stated he took “critical difficulty” with the federal government’s account of occasions.
Taseff stated Christensen had turned to alcohol and medicines as he struggled with an sad open marriage and a painful relationship with a girlfriend.
On the day of the killing, “he hits floor zero, all-time low,” Taseff stated, after studying that his girlfriend was with one other man that morning.
Christensen purchased a bottle of rum from a liquor retailer at about 7:45 a.m., then drove round whereas ingesting, Taseff stated.
“At 2 o’clock within the afternoon,” Taseff stated, “he does the unthinkable.”
Zhang got here to Illinois from China’s southern Fujian province. She was finding out photosynthesis and crop manufacturing on the college two months earlier than she was reported lacking on June 9, 2017.
Investigators have been led to Christensen after surveillance cameras in Urbana recorded Zhang getting right into a black automotive which authorities later traced to him, based on an arrest warrant affidavit filed with the court docket by an FBI agent.
Investigators alleged Christensen admitted to giving Zhang a journey, however stated he dropped her off in a residential space a number of blocks from the place he picked her up.
Prosecutors confirmed video of Zhang getting right into a black Saturn Astra that matched the automotive that Christensen drove. It was the final time she was seen alive.
Her then-boyfriend Xiaolin Hou advised the court docket on Wednesday: “We are going to by no means surrender hope to search out her.”