Testimony ends in penalty phase of slain Chinese woman case

Brendt Christensen.

PEORIA, Ill. – Testimony has wrapped up in the penalty phase of the trial of a former University of Illinois doctoral student convicted of killing a scholar from China.

Prosecutors called their last witnesses Tuesday to rebut presentations by Brendt Christensen’s lawyers.

The Champign News-Gazette reports that the federal judge in Peoria set closing arguments for Wednesday. After that, jurors will deliberate on whether the 30-year-old should be sentenced to death.

The same jurors convicted Christensen in June for abducting and killing 28-year-old Yingying Zhang in 2017. Prosecutors emphasized the brutality of the slaying, saying Christensen raped Zhang and beat her to death.

Zhang’s body has never been found.

The defense sought to humanize Christensen, including by showing videos of him as a child. He didn’t testify.

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