Yingying Zhang

U.S. prosecutors have told a judge they will seek the death penalty against a 28-year-old man charged with the kidnapping and killing of a University of Illinois scholar from China.

Federal prosecutors filed a notice Friday with the U.S. District Court in central Illinois. It cites, among other factors, that Brendt Christensen's alleged killing of Yingying Zhang involved torture.

Christensen is charged in the June kidnapping and death of the 26-year-old. Her body hasn't been found, but authorities say that they have evidence she's dead.

Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media

The family of Yingying Zhang hopes they will get answers about her disappearance when her accused kidnapper goes on trial next year. For the accused, Brendt Christensen, it is the chance to get his day in court. Christensen's federal trial on the charge of kidnapping resulting in death is scheduled to begin February 27th, 2018.

University of Illinois Police

An October 11 arraignment date has been set for Brendt Christensen, after a federal grand jury returned a new indictment accusing the alleged kidnapper of Yingying Zhang of murdering her as well.

Photo Provided by University of Illinois Police

Lawyers for Brendt Christensen, the 27-year-old man accused of kidnapping Yingying Zhang, are asking a judge’s permission to withdraw from the case.

Attorneys Thomas, Evan and Anthony Bruno have been representing Christensen, who’s accused of kidnapping University of Illinois visiting scholar Yingying Zhang.

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.

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