Mother of slain Chinese scholar testifies

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Yingying Zhang and Brendt Christensen

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PEORIA, Ill. (AP) _  The mother of a Chinese scholar who was kidnapped and killed by a former University of Illinois doctoral student has told a jury about the loss she feels.

Lifeng Ye’s video testimony was played Tuesday for the jury that last month convicted Brendt Christensen in Yingying Zhang’s 2017 death. The same jurors will decide if Christensen should be given the death penalty. Lifeng Ye spoke through tears of never seeing her daughter wear a wedding dress or have children of her own.

The penalty phase is expected to last several days. It’s not clear if Christensen will take the witness stand.

Prosecutors are urging the jury to recommend the death penalty. Defense attorneys say life in prison is punishment enough.

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2:05 p.m.

The boyfriend of a Chinese student who was kidnapped and killed by a former University of Illinois doctoral student is telling a federal jury about the devastation of the woman’s family.

Xiaolin Hou said Tuesday that Yingying Zhang’s mother cries almost daily.

The emotional testimony of the man who planned to marry the 26-year-old Zhang is part of the penalty phase of Brendt Christensen’s trial. The jury that found Christensen guilty last month must decide if he should be put to death or allowed to serve a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Prosecutors are urging the jury to recommend the death penalty. Christensen has shown no remorse for the grisly slaying that he meticulously planned. He has never revealed what he did with Zhang’s body.

Christensen’s attorneys say life in prison is punishment enough.

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8:55 a.m.

Jurors who will decide whether a former University of Illinois doctoral student should be executed for the kidnapping and brutal slaying of a Chinese scholar are hearing about what the victim meant to those closest to her.

A day after jurors heard from Yingying Zhang’s fiance and watched videos made by her friends, they’re expected to listen on Tuesday to the woman’s father and brother.

The testimony is part of the penalty phase of Brendt Christensen’s trial. The federal jury that found Christensen guilty last month in the 2017 killing now must decide if he should be put to death or allowed to live the rest of his life in prison.

Prosecutors are pushing for the death penalty but defense attorneys argue that life in prison is punishment enough.

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