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.

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.

The Justice Department says a federal grand jury has indicted Brendt Christensen of Champaign with the kidnapping of visiting Chinese scholar Yingying Zhang from the University of Illinois’s Urbana campus.

Zhang has not been seen since June 9, when a campus surveillance camera spotted her getting into Christensen’s vehicle. Authorities assume she is dead.

Christensen was arrested June 30, and has been held since then in connection with Zhang’s disappearance.

Due to the grand jury’s indictment, a hearing for Christensen set for Friday in Urbana has been canceled.

University of Illinois Police

Investigators say surveillance cameras at the University of Illinois helped find a suspect in the disappearance of a Chinese scholar.

The News-Gazette reports the footage showed Yingying Zhang getting into a black Saturn Astra before she disappeared on June 9 in Urbana. The video was made public after Zhang was reported missing.

Rockford PD

The Rockford Police Department is rolling out a new, five-week women's self-defense class, and it’s already reached capacity weeks before it’s scheduled to start.

The class aims to boost situational awareness. Deputy Rockford Police Chief Mike Dalke said it's half the battle in self-protection. 

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