Day 5: Christensen trial


PEORIA, Ill. (WCIA) — Testimony continues on day 5 of Brendt Christensen’s murder trial. He’s accused of kidnapping and killing UI scholar Yingying Zhang in June 2017.

Tuesday, a former maintenance worker at the apartment complex where Christensen lived with his wife took the stand and testified he put in a work order for grout issues and mold in the bathroom.

He says he went into the bathroom to do caulk work and sprayed for mold the day before a search warrant was executed on Christensen’s apartment.

A UIPD detective testified a search of a safe deposit box in Christensen’s name turned up ownership information for a 2008 black Saturn Astra.

FBI Special Agent Katherine Tenaglia testified she was in contact with Christensen’s wife, Michelle, throughout the investigation and helped her get a hotel room the night the search warrant was executed.

Tenaglia says the first time FBI agents showed up at their door, Brendt asked Michelle what he should do and she told him to go with the agents.

The prosecution calls Emily Hogan to testify. She states on June 9, 2017, a man in a black car approached her on Stoughton Street stating he was an undercover police officer and she was supposed to get in the car to answer some questions.

Hogan says she refused, walked away and called the non-emergency police number to report it.

The FBI later brought her in to look at a photo array in which she identified Christensen as the man in the car.

She testified the morning he approached her, he was wearing aviators, was clean shaven and was wearing what looked to be a badge on a chain around his neck.

Michelle Christensen is expected to testify this week as a witness for the defense.

Numerous FBI agents and UIPD officers testified Wednesday. Each, with relevant testimony, has stated remains of #YingyingZhang have not been recovered, nor is there any evidence she was alive after 6/9/17.

The government called Charles Hill to testify. He says he was locked up in the Macon County Jail and housed next to Christensen in summer 2017.

Hill says they became friends and would share commissary money with each other. Hill says he’s diabetic and couldn’t afford certain snacks to eat, so Christensen helped him out.

Hill says, while they were in jail, Christensen told him he had posed as a police officer and got a girl into his car, but later let her out.

The defense cross-examined Hill and questioned his ability to remember what he told the FBI when they came to talk to him and whether he remembered what Christensen had actually told him.

FBI Special Agent Michael Maguire is called to testify about pictures of evidence recovered from the defendant’s apartment.

They removed traps from underneath the bathroom sink and shower and removed the entire vanity.

Luminol showed glowing stains on Christensen’s mattress and glowing handprints on the wall behind the bed.

Under cross-examination by the defense, Maguire admits it’s not necessarily blood.

A McHenry County K-9 deputy took the stand Tuesday afternoon. He testified his dog was trained in cadaver detection in 2017.

He was brought to Christensen’s apartment and hit on the scent of a cadaver or human remains beneath the bathroom vanity.

However, the defense cross-examined him and stated the dog failed to detect blood stains beneath the carpet and called the dog’s credibility into question.

The deputy rebutted detecting scents obstructed by something like carpet is a “different ball game than scents in open air.”

Another FBI Special Agent, Douglas Seccombe, was called as a witness. Seccombe works out of the Chicago office and was called down to Champaign, specifically Christensen’s apartment, early in the morning of July 1, 2017, because the Champaign FBI team’s search was running long.

Seccombe’s team takes over the search. By this time, Christensen has already been arrested.

The government now presents several pictures of carpet inside the defendant’s apartment where the search team used luminol to detect stains.

Seccombe testifies the stains are likely from cleaning products since nothing was visible to the naked eye.

Assistant State’s Attorney Eugene Miller starts submitting physical items into evidence.

Miller presents a cut-out piece of carpeting, piece of drywall, carpet tack board strip and strip of baseboard.

Seccombe testifies all were removed from Christensen’s apartment.

The underside of the rug has a reddish-brown stain on it. Seccombe says it tests positive for blood. All the evidence was turned over to the FBI’s Springfield office for further testing.

Assistant federal defender Elisabeth Pollock is about to cross-examine Seccombe at the end of a courtroom break.

So far the defense has sharply scrutinized exactly what the presence of fluorescent evidence means when luminol is used.

Special Agent Seccombe testified his team usually uses luminol to find evidence of cleaning.

Defense attorney Pollock cross-examines him about what happens when carpet is clean. Seccombe has trouble following her line of questioning.

“You’ve never cleaned carpet before?” she asks him.

“No,” he says.

There is laughter in the courtroom. Seccombe eventually agrees they use it to find evidence or a lack of evidence.

FBI Special Agent Courtney Corbett is then called to testify by the government. Miller goes over all the same luminol evidence her.

They confirm the apartment had most likely been cleaned since maintenance workers had been to the apartment.

Christensen’s now ex-girlfriend, Terra Bullis, is scheduled to testify Wednesday, after a DNA/genetic evidence specialist takes the stand.

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