Brendt Christensen

Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media

Brendt Christensen entered a “not guilty” plea Thursday in a federal courtroom in Urbana to the charge of kidnapping a visiting scholar from China. The hearing lasted less than five minutes.

Prosecutors accuse Christensen, a recent University of Illinois graduate student, of abducting Yingying Zhang from a campus bus stop June 9.

Photo Provided by University of Illinois Police

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.