CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — Brendt Christensen pleaded not guilty to kidnapping UI scholar Yingying Zhang, and his lawyers aren’t backing down.
Zhang has been missing for almost a month and a half. The FBI believes she’s dead.
Christensen’s lawyers say a plea deal is not in the works and they are standing by his claim that he did not kidnap Zhang. The FBI says they have Christensen on audio surveillance admitting he took her but they still haven’t found her body.
This was the first time we’ve heard Brendt Christensen speak in court. The judge asked him about his health, and he said he was taking an anti-depressant but said it would not prevent him from making sound decisions in court.
The state’s attorney didn’t comment, but Christensen’s lawyers brought up another missing persons case, Misty Henderson from Tolono.
Anthony Bruno, one of Christensen’s lawyers said, “Wait till the evidence is in to make conclusions about this case. I will remind you that our local media has been following an unrelated case of the disappearance of another young woman this last week. She was found and although people while she was missing may have drawn the conclusion that her disappearance was the result of some bad act by some other person. As it turns out we know that was not the case. It was by her own design.”
This was the comparison Christensen’s lawyers made regarding Zhang’s kidnapping. They are still waiting for the U.S. Attorneys to present all the evidence against him at trial.
If he is found guilty, the judge said he could face up to life in prison. Christensen is requesting a trial by jury and he will be taken back into custody until then. His trial starts September 12.