The Associated Press reports that prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in a murder case against a former physics student who allegedly kidnapped and murdered a Chinese scholar at the University of Illinois. Additional information given the court included that Brendt Christensen, 28, allegedly choked and sexually assaulted another victim in the past.
Court records for the U.S. District Court in central Illinois outline multiple reasons for seeking the death penalty in Christensen’s case. Although details weren’t given in how, he allegedly tortured Yingying Zhang, 26, before murdering her. Christensen has not been officially charged in the prior case of choking and sexually assaulting a victim identified as “M.D.” in 2013, but records indicate he has wanted to be “known as a killer.”
On June 9, 2016, Zhang disappeared when headed to sign a lease for an apartment off campus, about 140 miles southwest of Chicago. She missed her bus and Christensen allegedly picked her up. Prosecutors claim she is dead, but no body has been recovered.
Christensen has pleaded not guilty to the charges in the case. The trial is scheduled for February 27, but his attorneys plan to ask for a later date.
Illinois abolished the death penalty in 2011, says the AP, due to the then-governor doubting the guilt of several inmates on death row. However, the death penalty is available under federal law. Only 27 such executions have taken place from 1927 to 2003, says the U.S. Bureau of Prisons site. Louis Jones was the last such execution on May 18, 2003 for his conviction in a kidnapping resulting in death case. Only one federal execution has taken place in Illinois – a death by hanging – in 1938.
Christensen’s planning of the crime and lack of remorse were both cited in the filing seeking the death penalty from the court.
Authorities state that evidence has also been recovered that Christensen visited FetLife.com months before Zhang’s disappearance, which features threads dedicated to “perfect abduction fantasy” and “planning a kidnapping.”
*Photo credit AP