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.
“Yingying is our pride and joy. She is smart, hardworking, brave and kind,” he said. “Her dream is to complete her education and return to China and become a university professor.”
The Zhang family raised its maximum reward offer from $40,000 for anonymous tips submitted to Champaign County Crime Stoppers that lead to Zhang's return.
A federal jury recently indicted 28-year-old Brendt Christensen of Urbana for her kidnapping.
Zhang has not been seen since June 9, when a campus surveillance camera captured her getting into Christensen's vehicle.
His next court appearance will be an arraignment scheduled July 20.
If convicted, the penalty for kidnapping is up to life in prison.