Christensen, once again, pleads not guilty

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) -- The man accused of kidnapping UI scholar Yingying Zhang was in court Wednesday, pleading not guilty to the new charge of being responsible for her death.  

This was the first time Zhang's mother saw Brendt Christensen face-to-face. It was too much for her to handle.

Before the hearing even started, she took one look at her daughter's accused kidnapper and burst into tears, screaming at him in Mandarin, "Give me my daughter back."

Christensen never looked at the family; he just kept his head down until the arraignment started.

The new charge could change the outcome of this case. If convicted, he faces the death penalty or mandatory life in prison.

Christensen was initially charged with Zhang's kidnapping, but not her death. He pleaded not guilty to the initial kidnapping charge in July.

Wednesday, he pleaded not guilty to the charge of being responsible for her death. The U.S. District Attorney released a statement alleging they have more evidence to prove the kidnapping resulted in Zhang's death:

Special findings that Christensen committed the offense in an especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner, in that it involved torture or serious physical abuse to the victim; and, that Christensen committed the offense after substantial planning and premeditation to cause the death of a person.

Wednesday was the first time the details were made public. In addition, the U.S. Attorney's office says he's also charged with two counts of lying to the FBI.

Surveillance video shows Zhang getting into a black Saturday, June 9. FBI agents say Christensen told them he was at home sleeping and playing video games that day.

He also reportedly told them he didn't take her back to his apartment.

Authorities say they have evidence to support all three charges.

Christensen has a new attorney after his previous lawyer asked to be taken off the case saying he couldn't afford to pay him anymore. He was appointed a public defender in early September.

His new representation declined to comment further on the case. Christensen's trial is set for February. His new lawyer has until then to prepare his defense against the new charge. 


More Stories

Don't Miss

  • Don't Miss Stay Connected
    Copyright 2018 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
  • Don't Miss Viewers Club
    Copyright 2018 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
  • Don't Miss Wedding Showcase
    Copyright 2018 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
  • Don't Miss Hidden History
    Copyright 2018 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
  • Don't Miss Text Alerts
    Copyright 2018 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories

Latest News

Video Center