PEORIA, Ill. (WCIA) — Day 7 of Brendt Christensen’s trial begins with his ex-girlfriend, Terra Bullis, continuing her testimony.
Christensen is on trial for the 2017 murder of UI scholar Yingying Zhang.
FBI recordings, from a wire worn by Bullis, are played in court. Christensen is heard telling Bullis the car is a false lead, “I’m sure in the back of their minds, they’re still hoping it’s me because that would be easy for them.”
He continues and tells Bullis, on June 8, he drank two shots, but in hindsight wishes he would have gotten drunk, “because, you know, then I wouldn’t have, uh, yeah…”
Referring to the FBI search of his apartment, Christensen is heard on tape saying, “They didn’t find jacks***” when his electronics were seized.
Christensen claims he’s a scapegoat. Bullis tries to get him to say more claiming she has “Stockholm Syndrome” and would be loyal to him.
Christensen says the only reason investigators had anything is because Zhang missed an appointment.
In a later recorded conversation, Christensen describes his interest in serial killers. Bullis testifies his eyes “lit up and he started talking faster” when serial killers were the topic of conversation.
Christensen also explains there was one killer who targeted prostitutes at truck stops because those people “aren’t missed.”
He’s also heard on tape saying, “I’m still kind of paranoid they’re listening to me.” At this, Bullis becomes “incredibly nervous.”
Bullis continues to get Christensen to admit to more, but Christensen declines saying telling others is “the number one way people get caught with any crime,” and, hypothetically, if he had done anything, it might bring the FBI to her doorstep.
Bullis suggests she could become an “accomplice.”
He responds, “I care about you too much to every try and put you in that kind of situation.”
Christensen’s now ex-girlfriend, Terra Bullis continues her testimony Thursday afternoon.
When asked by Assistant State’s Attorney Jim Nelson how she felt about secretly recording Christensen’s dark conversations, she replied, “I was terrified.”
She describes how Christensen told her to meet him at Krannert for the walk and vigil shortly after Zhang’s disappearance.
He texted her, “I am going to this no matter what. I’d love it if you were there with me.”
In text messages, Bullis asked why he wanted to go and questioned, “Have you not seen enough of the posters and news articles?” He implored her to go and she eventually agrees.
She then went to the FBI office to pick up a recording device and took an alternate bus route to meet him.
When they met on the steps of Krannert, the defendant took a collar out of his backpack for Bullis to wear as part of their BDSM relationship, but she tells him it would be inappropriate to wear to a somber event like the walk. He doesn’t make her wear it.
When Christensen tells her, everyone was “here for me,” she determines she should record their interactions.
Bullis insists during testimony Christensen wasn’t drunk during the walk but was carrying a water bottle about one-fifth full of alcohol. Every time he took a drink, he had her take a drink as well.
Clips of recordings heard in court last week are now being show. Throughout this, Nelson asks Bullis to clarify parts which are unintelligible.
Eventually, during the recordings, the defendant gets around to telling Bullis the details of his crime. He traces the number 13 in her palm and tries to gauge her reaction.
She states, “I felt like I was being studied and observed.”
When the concert was about to begin, she went to the bathroom to turn off the recording device to keep from draining the batteries. She also emailed the FBI, then immediately deleted the communications.
She says when she returned to her seat, Christensen went through her phone.
Bullis testifies Christensen opened up the notepad application on her phone and typed four lines, deleting each after typing it:
It was me.
She was number 13.
She says, during the concert, he pointed out a woman near them and says she’d be an ideal victim.
At the end, she says he didn’t clap normal applause; instead they were long, slow, spaced, staccato claps.
Bullis admits she’s even more scared now than before. When she goes to turn the recorder back on, she texted a housemate asking them to make sure Christensen wouldn’t be allowed to go home with her.
Also heard on the recordings is Christensen telling Bullis how Zhang fought him off.
She says he was laughing when he described cutting her head off, complaining about how long it took to kill her. “[I was like], No, uh, uh,” he said, “none of that f***ing zombie s***.”
At this point in the recordings, Christensen says he’s hungry and suggests going to Potbellies.
The conversation continues.
Bullis asks, “Is 13 really a big number?” “It’s bigger than Jeffrey Dahmer. Bigger than John Wayne Gacy. I have caught the nation’s attention apparently.”
Bullis says you could hear her heart beating in the clip. She describes the defendant’s speech as “clinical.”
She testifies when she got home, she called the FBI and cried. She also says Christensen tried to call her multiple times from jail after he was arrested.
She says the couple was not sexually active between June 9 – 29, 2017.
She says the publicity of the case affected her. She sought therapy and was reimbursed $7,000 – $8,000 by the FBI.
Nelson asks, “How does it feel to be testifying against him today?”
“So why are you doing it?”
“Because it’s necessary.”
Court is in recess for an hour.
Testimony resumes after lunch. The defense is now cross-examining Bullis.
Attorney Robert Tucker starts by asking her how much Christensen was actually drinking the night of the walk for Zhang.
He points out she was drinking too and asks if she was trying to keep him drinking. He says she previously gave the defendant a choice between drinking or spending time with here.
Bullis says she first messaged Christensen on OkCupid. On his profile, shown in court, he describes himself as “pretty chill and laid back.”
Tucker has Bullis answer questions about what their messages contained. She had to explain what “pansexual” meant.
Tucker says she “injected” sexual fantasies into their very first conversation. She replies, “I would say I introduced it.”
Bullis testifies she introduced Christensen to the ideas and constructs of BDSM.
The two went to one meeting for people who identify as “kinky,” but say it was a social gathering and they only went once.
Tucker has Bullis explain that she introduced Christensen to FetLife. She showed him demonstration videos of flogging and got excited when he purchased bondage equipment.
She said, throughout their relationship, Christensen was “substantially” supportive of her and often comforted her.
Tucker suggests Bullis egged Christensen on while recording him during the walk, questioning her neutral-to-positive reactions to his gruesome comments.
She says she didn’t register an opinion on the information and was merely there to collect it.
She says she drank alcohol during the walk/concert with him because she was afraid, if she didn’t, it could have caused a breakdown in communication between them.
The defense continued its cross-examination of Bullis amid numerous objections from the government. Before the state redirects Bullis, Nelson remarked Bullis texted Christensen “Happy Birthday” just hours before he was arrested.
Assistant State’s Attorney redirects Bullis in an attempt to defeat some of the points Tucker tried to raise.
Bullis reportedly asked Christensen if he was hungover and told him to drink water.
When Tucker asked why since she testified he wasn’t drunk during the walk the night before, she says it was because he had been drinking throughout the day and while it might not have affected him in the short-term, it could have affected him in the long-term, giving him a hangover.