PEORIA, Ill. (AP) – Jurors have convicted a former University of Illinois doctoral student in the slaying of a visiting scholar from China who was abducted at a bus stop as she headed to sign an off-campus apartment lease.
The guilty verdict Monday was expected because Brendt Christensen’s attorneys acknowledged from the start that he raped and stabbed Yingying Zhang in June 2017. Prosecutors say he beat her to death with a baseball bat and decapitated her.
The case now heads to the sentencing phase to determine whether he should receive the death penalty. Illinois no longer has capital punishment, but because it’s a federal case that is an option.
The judge has said there will be a break of a week or more before the penalty phase, which could last several weeks.