Suspect in scholar’s disappearance charged with kidnapping

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Brendt Christensen, 28, of Champaign is the subject of a federal complaint Friday, June 30, 2017, accusing him of kidnapping in the June 9 disappearance of visiting University of Illinois scholar Yingying Zhang.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) _ A federal grand jury has returned a superseding indictment against a man accused in the abduction of a University of Illinois scholar from China.

The indictment returned Tuesday accuses Brendt Christensen of kidnapping resulting in the death of Yingying Zhang. If convicted of the charge, the 28-year-old Christensen faces the death penalty or life in prison.

The indictment alleges Christensen intentionally killed the 26-year-old Zhang in “an especially heinous, cruel, or depraved manner.” It contends her death involved torture or serious physical abuse and that he did so “after substantial planning ad premeditation.”

Zhang disappeared June 9, weeks after arriving at the university. Even though her body hasn’t been found, authorities believe Zhang is dead.

The indictment also charges Christensen with two counts of making false statements to FBI agents.