Family of murdered Chinese scholar speaks after guilty verdict

World Today

A guilty verdict in the kidnapping and killing of a Chinese scholar. A jury in the U.S. state of Illinois took less than two-hours to reach its decision.

CGTN’s Dan Williams is in Peoria with more.

Brendt Christensen arrived at Peoria’s Federal Courthouse on Monday, knowing that a jury would likely decide if he was guilty of kidnapping and killing Zhang Yingying. With Christensen’s defense attorney having already admitted his client killed the Chinese scholar, the jurors were expected to render a quick verdict.

In closing statements, Christensen’s attorneys again made clear their client was responsible for the kidnapping and death of 26-year-old Zhang, whose body has never been recovered.

“It’s Brendt’s fault,” federal defender Elisabeth Pollock told the court as Christensen sat with his eyes closed. “It’s nobody’s fault but his.” But, she said, Christensen was not a serial killer. His attorneys already appear to be laying the groundwork for the sentencing phase.

The jury took under two hours to reach a decision. They verdict was unanimous. Guilty on all three counts. Christensen showed no reaction. He now faces the death penalty.

In the meantime, some satisfaction for Zhang’s family, that justice was served but they know nothing can be done to bring Zhang back.

Afterward, the family told me they still want answers to the events of two years ago.

“I am very touched today. Thanks very much to the jury. I really miss my daughter I want to take her home. I want to take her home,” said Ye Lifeng Zhang Yingying’s mother.

“We want him to confess as soon as possible so the most important thing is to tell us where Yingying is. And our biggest hope is finding Yingying and taking her home,” said Hou Xiaolin Zhang Yingying’s fiance.

The sentencing phase will begin in two weeks. The same jury will decide whether Christensen will spend the rest of his life behind bars or sentenced to death.