A former graduate student, Brendt Christensen, 28, was indicted on July 12 on one charge of kidnapping. He is being held in Urbana pending arraignment, according to the University of Illinois police department.
Zhang was a visiting scholar at the University of Illinois/Urbana-Campaign, and was planning to meet a rental agent about an apartment on June 9. She did not show up for the appointment and did not return the agent’s calls.
A native of Fujian province, China, she was last seen getting into a car later identified as Christensen’s about 2 pm June 9. Traffic cameras showed her leaning through the passenger side door and talking to the driver, then getting in before the car drove away. Her friends reported the last message they got from her came about a half-hour later.
Local police and the FBI were able to locate the car on June 27, and after further investigation arrested Christensen three days later.
Her father, aunt and fiancé arrived in Illinois last month. At a news conference Friday, they read the following:
The afternoon of her disappearance, Zhang was wearing a charcoal gray hat with a white logo on the front. She has shoulder length brown hair, glasses, and a white/pink flannel print long sleeve shirt, white undershirt, jeans, white shoes, and a navy backpack.
We were devastated when Yingying went missing, and the revelation that someone likely kidnapped her has been heartbreaking. We continue to maintain hope that she has survived this horrible ordeal until we find her. We want to bring her home.
In hopes that someone, somewhere has information on where to find Yingying, we are increasing the reward for information about her location up to $50,000. We would consider additional reward, if anyone can bring her back safely.
Yingying is our pride and joy. She is smart, hard-working, brave and kind. Her dream was to complete her education and return to China to become a university professor, support her family and share her knowledge with students for years to come. We know Yingying wants to be with us and we will not leave the United States without her.
We are grateful for the help and support of so many people and organizations, and we want to publicly thank the Chinese Consulate and University, Chinese Students and Scholars Association, Chinese American Association of Central Illinois, Fujian Association in Chicago, Peking University Alumni Association, Sun Yat-Sen University Alumni Association, volunteers and media for all the support you have been giving to our family. We want to particularly thank U of I Credit Union for your generous help on managing the fund and trust. We are also grateful for attorneys Zhidong Wang, Roaa al-Heeti, Steve Beckett and David Thies for their wise counsel and kindness. We appreciate the work of the U of I Police Department, Crime Stoppers, Illinois State Police, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney, but our number one priority is to find Yingying, and for that, we need your help. If you have any information that might help investigators find Yingying, please help us by sharing it – anonymously – with Crime Stoppers.
Investigators were able to make an arrest, in part because of information shared with them by people in Champaign-Urbana. We are so grateful for their courage and compassion, and we hope that others who might have additional information will follow that example and help us find Yingying. Thank you.
Law enforcement agencies are continuing their investigation into Zhang’s disappearance. They also have released more photos of the woman provided by the family. I am republishing them here.
If you know anything about Zhang’s abduction, please contact:
More details: University of Illinois Police Department
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