UW graduate charged in abduction of University of Illinois scholar from China to plead not guilty

Brendt Christensen and Yingying Zhang

URBANA, Illinois — A 28-year-old man charged in the abduction of a University of Illinois scholar from China plans to plead not guilty.

Defense attorney Tom Bruno tells The (Champaign) News-Gazette (http://bit.ly/2gNnH06 ) that Brendt Christensen will enter the plea during a hearing Thursday afternoon, July 20th in U.S. District Court, near the school in Urbana.

A grand jury returned an indictment last week charging Christensen with kidnapping. Christensen is accused of kidnapping 26-year-old Yingying Zhang on June 9th in Urbana, 140 miles (225 kilometers) southwest of Chicago. He is a recent graduate student in physics at the university.

Investigators say Zhang was abducted after she left campus to sign an apartment lease. They believe Christensen lured her into his car.

Investigators have said they believe Zhang is dead, although they haven’t found her body.

Public records show Christensen lived previously in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, and his LinkedIn profile states he graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2013 with bachelor’s degrees in physics and math.