United States

U of I Kidnapping Suspect Researched the ‘Perfect Abduction,' FBI Says

Brendt Christensen, 27, was arrested on a criminal complaint for the June 9 kidnapping of Yingying Zhang, authorities said

A man charged with the kidnapping of a visiting Chinese scholar at the University of Illinois allegedly researched the "perfect abduction" before the crime, according to the FBI. 

Brendt Christensen, 27, was charged Friday with kidnapping Yingying Zhang on June 9, authorities said. 

Zhang, 26, was about a month into a yearlong appointment at the University of Illinois' Urbana-Champaign campus when she vanished.

Her friends told police she had gone out to sign an apartment lease, and she was last seen on surveillance video entering a Saturn Astra around 2 p.m., authorities said. 

On June 12, University of Illinois Police traced the car to Christensen, a former graduate student earned a masters degree in physics in May, according to a university spokeswoman and the criminal complaint filed by the FBI. 

Christensen initially said he couldn't recall his whereabouts on June 9, later telling police that "he must have been either sleeping or he was playing video games at his residence all day," according to the complaint. 

Three days later, officials said Christensen admitted in an interview with investigators to picking up an Asian female who said she was late for an appointment on June 9. 

Authorities said he claimed to have made a wrong turn, at which point the woman panicked and he said he let her out of the car a few blocks away. 

At the same time as Christensen's interview, agents searched his residence, seizing several computers and a cell phone belonging to the suspect, according to the complaint. 

It was at this point investigators said they discovered Christensen used his phone to scan a forum on the website FetLife called "Abduction 101." 

Authorities allege Christensen visited sub-threads on the site called "perfect abduction fantasy" and "planning a kidnapping," according to the complaint.

On June 29, while he was under law enforcement surveillance, the FBI said agents overheard Christensen explaining that he kidnapped Zhang, bringing her back to his apartment against her will. 

"Based on this, and other facts uncovered during the investigation of this matter, law enforcement agents believe that Ms. Zhang is no longer alive," the complaint concludes. 

Christensen will remain in law enforcement custody pending his initial federal court appearance in Urbana scheduled on Monday, July 3, at 10 a.m., authorities said. Attorney information for the accused was not immediately available. 

A prayer vigil planned for Saturday was canceled in the wake of the alleged kidnapper's arrest and news of Zhang’s possible death.

"We hope they are wrong, but trust they have creditable information to make this statement," organizers Kim Tee and Randy Tom said in a joint statement late Friday night. "Please keep Ying Ying's family in your thought and prayers, and may God watch over them."

Zhang, from Jianyang, China, was working in the university's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, researching photosynthesis and crop productivity. 

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