Missing scholar case trial update

By Gillian Dunlop, Managing Editor for Reporting

It has been a year and a half since visiting scholar Yingying Zhang went missing in June of 2017. Alleged kidnapper Brendt Christensen is facing a charge of one count of kidnapping resulting in death and two counts of making false statements to the FBI. The trial is set to begin in April, 2019 in Peoria.


June 9- Visiting scholar Yingying Zhang was reported missing

June 12- Brendt Christensen questioned.
June 15- Police obtained a search warrant for Christensen’s vehicle. He admitted to giving an Asian female a ride, but he said he let her out of his vehicle shortly after picking her up.
June 30- Christensen was arrested for kidnapping Zhang.
July 5- Christensen was denied bail in Federal court because he was deemed a flight risk and threat to the community.
July 12- A federal grand jury indicted Christensen with kidnapping Zhang.
July 20- Christensen pleaded “not guilty” to one count of federal kidnapping.
Sept. 1- Christensen’s attorneys Tom, Evan and Anthony Bruno asked to be removed from the case, citing that Christensen does not have the necessary funds to pay them if he is charged with higher charges.
Sept. 8- The Brunos were granted their request to leave the case and Christensen was given a team of public defenders.
Oct. 3- A federal grand jury charged Christensen with one count of kidnapping resulting in death and two counts of making false statements to the FBI.
Oct. 11- Christensen pleads “not guilty” to the three charges.
Nov. 9- Christensen’s attorneys asked for a delay in the trial for more preparation time.
Nov. 15- The request for a trial delay was denied.


Jan. 19- Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions releases an intent to seek the death penalty against Christensen.
Feb. 9- Christensen’s defense team asks U.S. District Judge Colin Stirling Bruce to recuse himself from the case.
Feb. 12- Christensen’s trial is pushed to April 2019.
Oct. 13- Christensen’s wife, Michelle Christensen, files for divorce.
Dec. 7- Christensen’s trial is moved from Urbana to Peoria.